Prepare to Laugh a Lot at ‘Spamalot’

0
1452
Photo by Connie Morrison The cast of “Spamalot” rehearses a dance number.

By Connie Morrison — When Monty Python’s “Spamalot” opens July 18 at the North Street Playhouse in Onancock, expectations are bound to be high. Based on the cult classic movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the production will have to balance between audience members who know every line from the movie and those who have never seen the movie or musical.

Photo by Connie Morrison
“Spamalot” cast members (clockwise from top left) Peej Mele, Cat Yudain, Jordan Jones, Cliff Murden, Will X Stanley, Jimmy Wencel, and Jim Szablewicz rehearse a scene from the musical.

That balance is on the mind of cast member Peej Mele, who debuted at North Street Playhouse in “Young Frankenstein” as Igor. “You want everyone to go, ‘Oh, I love that line,’ but at the same time, you want to be very fresh.”

“I want this to feel almost like a welcome home” for people who know that material already, he added. “I want to do them proud. For those who don’t know the movie, I hope they find it as funny as I did 15 years ago” when he saw “Spamalot” on Broadway. Mele has multiple roles, including Sir Lancelot and the guard who hurls insults over the castle wall at King Arthur and his company of knights.

“To me, ‘Spamalot’ is like when we tackled ‘Young Frankenstein’ in 2017,” said choreographer and production stage manager Mary Stiegelbauer. “I hope that the audience trusts us to bring in the talent on and offstage to do justice to the material and the specific brand of humor, just like we did for ‘Young Frankenstein.’”

Jordan Jones (Fred Graham/Petruchio in “Kiss Me, Kate”), who portrays King Arthur, has never seen the movie or the musical. Without that context, he relies on the director and other cast members to alert him about when and how certain gags must land. “I’m trying to make it my own but also meet it halfway,” he said.

Photo by Connie Morrison
Jordan Jones (front), who plays King Arthur in the Northstreet Playhouse production of “Spamalot,” rehearses with Nick Walker (right) and A.J. Jackson.

The cast was hand-picked by Stiegelbauer from actors who worked on previous North Street summer productions. She presented her dream team list to director Sara Stuart for her approval, then approached the chosen actors.  “Everyone said ‘Yes!’ That never happens,” she said. 

Other returning professionals include Rori Nogee (Elizabeth Benning in the North Street Playhouse production of “Young Frankenstein”), as the Lady of the Lake; Will Stanley (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in “Young Frankenstein”), in multiple roles, including Sir Galahad and the Black Night; Cat Yudain (Lois Lane/Bianca in “Kiss Me, Kate”), in multiple roles including Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert; and Jimmy Wencel (Gremio/featured dancer in “Kiss Me, Kate”). Tara Britton (“The Remarkable Voyages o’ Molly Reed), Ashley Aigner Atunes (Mona Kent in “Dames at Sea”), and Hannah Hampton (“The Remarkable Voyages o’ Molly Reed”) return as featured dancers. Stanley, Yudain, Wencel, Britton, Atunes, and Hampton have appeared in multiple North Street Playhouse dance and theater productions. 

Photo by Connie Morrison
Will X. Stanley and Rori Nogee (center), as Sir Galahad and the Lady of the Lake, rehearse a song from Spamalot, along with (from left) Katie Higgins, Isabeau Drewer, Meg Morrison, and Hannah Hampton.

Emily Jane Price (choreographer for “Dames at Sea”) returns as tap choreographer, and A.J. Jackson debuts at North Street as a featured dancer. Local actors Jim Szablewicz and Cliff Murden round out King Arthur’s traveling troupe. Local actors and interns make up the ensemble cast. 

Jones said the kindness and collaboration of everyone involved contribute to an ideal community theater setting. “I like that every person here seems to be the best example of whatever they are doing,” he said. “I love that communal feeling. It’s nice to be in that world for a while.”

It’s the right formula for Nogee. “There is joy surrounding the process,” she said. “To come back to a place that is doing theater just because they love it makes you remember just how much you love it.”

Where: North Street Playhouse, 34 Market St., Onancock
Dates: July 18-20 and July 25-27 at 8 p.m., with matinee performances July 21 and July 28 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $10 for students. Available for purchase at
www.northstreetplayhouse.org/tickets or call 757-787-2050.
All tickets are for reserved seating.

Click on any photo below to start the photo gallery.