‘Spamalot’ promises humor, dance
BY STEFANIE NAKASONE / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry, all you Spam lovers out there. Despite the title, Diamond Head Theatre’s final production of the 2013-14 season has nothing to do with Hawaii’s favorite canned meat.
» Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
Instead, “Spamalot” features the steady diet of gut-busting laughs you’d expect from a Monty Python production. The Tony Award-winning musical comedy, created by original Monty Python member Eric Idle, is “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” full of rapid-fire humor and showstopping numbers.
The musical not only parodies the King Arthur tale, but also Broadway shows in general, making fun of classics such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” “West Side Story” and the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“I love all the hidden pieces of music from other shows,” actor Tony Young said during a round-table (naturally) interview with the cast earlier this month. “Like, we’ll do something and go, ‘Oh, that’s “Singin’ in the Rain”‘ or ‘That’s “Fiddler on the Roof.”‘ And even dialogue, like I do something and it has to do with ‘Funny Girl’ and ‘People’ and the lyrics.
“The connection to all these things is just fun. It’s pure joy.”
Cast members say they’re convinced that even those who aren’t Monty Python fans will find something to love in “Spamalot.”
The musical, which opens Friday and has already been extended through Aug. 10, has tons of Monty Python’s signature deadpan humor but also includes the silly and goofy, the absurd and the politically incorrect.
Case in point: the number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” which pokes fun at the tradition of Jewish people in theater.
“I just think it’s the funniest thing,” said Garrett Hols (Sir Lancelot) of the over-the-top “Fiddler on the Roof” spoof. “It’s hilarious. I think that’s my favorite scene.”
HONOLULU THEATER veteran Andrew Sakaguchi directs and choreographs the DHT production.
“I usually have a niche type of show, but out-and-out comedy is not what I’m known for,” said Sakaguchi, who has handled past DHT shows such as “Hairspray” and “Legally Blonde,” as well as extravagantly choreographed works by Bob Fosse. “But I’m really lucky. Somebody once told me to be a good director, all you have to do is cast the show well. And that’s exactly what I did.
“I did a brilliant job of casting this show, because I have an amazing group of actors who just step up and they’re fantastic.
“They take chances. Some of them are spot-on Monty Python, and some of them are taking the characters into other comedic directions that completely work and completely serve the show.”
LAURENCE PAXTON stars as King Arthur, who — accompanied by his servant Patsy (played by Venis Goodman) — recruits several familiar characters to form the Knights of the Round Table: Sir Lancelot, Sir Robin (Young), Sir Galahad (Butch DePonte-Merideth) and Sir Bedevere (Braddoc DeCaires).
King Arthur is the comedy’s primary straight man, but he’s nothing like Paxton’s last DHT role: Frank Sr. in the spring production of “Catch Me if You Can.”
“Frank Sr. was a very serious character who went from alcoholism into paranoia to nervous breakdown, so there was nothing fun about that every night,” Paxton joked. “So when Andrew asked if I would do King Arthur — I haven’t laughed so hard, it’s just great. It’s just a gift to do something that’s just funny, funny, funny.”
“And (Paxton) makes us laugh nonstop, too, oh my gosh,” added Kalia Medeiros, who plays the talented and stage-time hungry Lady of the Lake, the lone female lead.
Medeiros joked how she’s onstage only 10 to 15 minutes — something her character laments in song. But she and the rest of the cast agree that one of the positives of the show is that each of the main characters gets a chance to shine.
Even the servant (and sometimes steed) Patsy takes a starring turn when he belts out the most recognizable song in the show, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” The song is originally from the 1979 Monty Python film “Life of Brian,” and over the years has become a fixture in British culture, as it’s often sung at public events such as soccer matches and was even featured during the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony.
“I hope I do it justice,” said Goodman, who is making his DHT debut after moving to the islands from San Francisco.
ALL BUT three songs in “Spamalot” are original pieces. And those watching the DHT production will have the added bonus of seeing Sakaguchi’s touches, particularly with the dance sequences.
“We have outrageous dance numbers,” Medeiros said. “Andrew has us doing some of the most hysterical, tongue-in-cheek choreography ever. And it’s even funnier because it’s just, like, old white men.
“No offense,” she quickly added as her co-stars roared with laughter.
Laughs are commonplace during rehearsals. After all, the play’s got memorably hilarious bits from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” including the Black Knight (a favorite of Paxton’s), the Knights of Ni and a killer rabbit.
“It’s fun having fun at our end,” Young said. “We’re enjoying it, and that I think will come across.”
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why it’s called “Spamalot” when there’s nary a glimpse of the iconic blue can or its pink, meaty contents, look no further than “Holy Grail.”
As Idle explained before the play’s Chicago premiere in 2004, the title comes from a line in the movie: “We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot.”