The RiverStage Community Theater will take audiences back to merry old England and the surreal comic world of Monty Python with its final show of the season. The extravagant musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot” will be performed at the Greenspace Center Auditorium, 815 Market St., Lewisburg, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and June 24-25 and June 26 at 2:30 p.m.
RiverStage is thrilled to finally bring this production of “Spamalot” to Lewisburg after two years of testing. It was the first show they had to cancel when COVID-19 first hit the area in the spring of 2020. Jove Graham, president of RiverStage and director of “Spamalot,” thinks third time is the charm.
“Even though COVID is still present in our area, with vaccines and masks in place, we were able to restart our season this year and can finally bring this show to life,” Graham said. “With a live orchestra and 26 cast members, this will be a truly joyous and hilarious show that we hope will keep people laughing and having a great time.”
With music and lyrics by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” presents the adventures of King Arthur and his knights in a spectacle that parodies other musicals and comes across as “lovingly ripped off” from the movie. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The story follows King Arthur, his faithful servant Patsy and his band of knights as they search for the Holy Grail in 10th century England and are aided along the way by the beautiful and mysterious Lady of the Lake.
Filled with over-the-top musical numbers, singing and dancing knights, flying cows and killer bunnies, the show is an outrageous celebration of musical theater combined with the absurdist humor of legendary English comedy troupe Monty Python.
The show features a live orchestra with 12 musicians and a huge cast of 26 actors of all ages, and from all over the Susquehanna Valley including Danville, Milton, Sunbury, Selinsgrove, Lewisburg and more. King Arthur, his servant Patsy and the Lady of the Lake are played by Tyler Marvin, Donnie Mapes and Desirae Moore respectively, and they are closely accompanied in their adventures by Sir Lancelot (Nick Buckman), Sir Robin (Josh Wilkinson), Sir Galahad (Tim Hippensteel) and Sir Bedevere (Teddy Casimir).
Josh Wilkinson, associate director of admissions for communications at Bucknell University, stars as Sir Robin, who wants to become a knight, but only for singing and dancing.
“He’s a coward when it comes to fighting, so I have a lot of leaks to do,” he said.
The irony of Wilkinson playing Robin is that his character is a coward who has no problem being front and center when it comes to musical numbers, which has long been a personal fear of Wilkinson.
“I’ve performed in 18 productions over the past 20 years, but I’ve mostly stuck to plays and avoided playing a lead role in a musical for fear of singing alone on stage,” a- he declared. “I hope to channel some of Robin’s secret bravery into my own life.”
Wilkinson admits “Spamalot” is his favorite musical, having developed a deep passion for “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in his early teens. He also remembers quoting the movie “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” throughout high school.
“It was the early days of the internet, and I changed the sound effects on our family’s computer with a bunch of sound bytes from the movie,” he said. “Later, my wife surprised me by taking me to see a production of ‘Spamalot’ in Memphis while we were living in Tennessee. It’s a very special and weird show to be cast in something I knew already almost half of the aftershocks.
Graham said their goal at RiverStage is to make shows that they know people will love, and also that they don’t think people have seen many times before.
“I like ‘Spamalot’ because it’s so smart and so funny, but also because of some of its unusual demands – it’s not a show that most high school music departments are likely to do,” did he declare. “So ‘Spamalot’ is a great and unusual gem for musical theater fans, whether they know Monty Python or not, because it parodies so many other Broadway shows. We thought it would be a fresh and exciting choice for us this summer.
Graham said he’s been a huge Monty Python fan ever since he discovered them while watching reruns on PBS in the ’80s.
“I’ve seen the touring production of this show and have directed three musicals for RiverStage, but I’ve never directed this one before, and it’s a dream come true!” he said.
“Spamalot” contains soft language and “crass British humour”, but is otherwise suitably funny for all ages.
“I think it’s a fantastic show because it manages to blend Monty Python comedy, which can be very minimal and absurd, with the over-the-top singing and dancing that you get from a huge, screaming Broadway musical,” said Graham. . “I love it so much, and I love sitting in the theater watching rehearsals because this cast is so awesome. I can’t wait for the audience to see it.”
“It has been a pleasure to rehearse with an incredible cast of talented people, but the theater lives off the energy provided by a live audience,” Wilkinson said. “I can’t wait to see them and hear the laughter.”
“Hopefully we can inspire new fans to seek out Monty Python if they aren’t already familiar with their movies and TV work,” Graham said. “I can’t wait to have a theater full of people enjoying the experience of live musical theater again!”
With everything that’s happened, Wilkinson thinks now is the right time and place for this show.
“The last few years have been very tough on people, and it’s a show full of joy and pure laughter,” he said. “The last words are literally ‘Always look on the bright side of life.’ I hope we can find a way to do this together.