Behind the Scenes of Monty Python’s Spamalot at Richmond Center Stage
By Will Hooper
The Tony Award winning touring production of Monty Python’s Spamalot is kicking off its national tour January 11th at Richmond’s Centre Stage. With the play authored by Monty Python’s own Eric Idle, this adaptation of The Holy Grail is a show that appears to be nothing short of a spectacle.
The play includes various moments that re-enact infamous scenes from the classic 70’s Monty Python production, including killer rabbits and the Knights of Ni.
Production Supervisor Jinay Lena, on her second tour with Spamalot, said the show continues to make her laugh. “I actually laugh at different things every night… It’s always funny no matter how long you’ve been working on it. Depending on the night, the energy from the audience, and people experimenting with line delivery, there are different things that just tickle me.”
Lena went on to say Centre Stage is the perfect venue for Spamalot; it’s unique front house architecture “totally matches the style of our show.”
The theatrical adaptation of the ‘Holy Grail’ movie manages to keep many references from the original. According to Lena, “There’s so much from the movie that I had sort of forgotten. Some scenes are literally line for line from the film”. This should be good news to die-hard Monty Python fans. Of course they have added some bits for the stage, including a female lead character.
What sets this show above others is their extensive collection of props (including the famous “Bring out your dead!” wagon) and costumes.
Wardrobe supervisor Marianne VanStee, who has worked on productions such as Wicked and The Color Purple, said she has one of those most tedious jobs of all, supervising approximately 1,500 wardrobe pieces that are used in every show. “We wash the costumes every day. [Then they are] steamed and pressed for every show. It’s a matter of a lot of categorizing and inventory. We take inventory every day because there are so many pieces, “ says VanStee.
Among VanStee’s other duties is taking care of the Black Knight costume during performances. To the delight of fans, it was noted that there is plenty of spraying blood and “arms and legs flying all over the place” during the Black Knight scene.
Highly produced and prop heavy shows like Spamalot face different challenges when touring the nation, one of them being space. “We have some pretty large elements to our set and we play all sorts of different sizes of theatres,” says Lena. “You’ll hit a town where you have half the depth and half the width, so the challenges for me and for our crew are trying to figure out how to be as true to the show as possible.” Lucky for Richmonders, Centre Stage is big. “We are really lucky because this theatre is beautiful and we can fit our entire show in here. We get to put in everything that we have”
The Spamalot tour includes everywhere from large theatres like Centre Stage, to small high school auditoriums. “ I like playing high schools, they’re actually some of the best crowds,” says Arthur Rowan, who fittingly plays King Arthur in the production. However, with venues like high schools, they have been forced to keep props and costumes in unusual places. “Once they had to store some of the costumes outside in the alley, and I think it was someplace like Minnesota in February, so it was definitely an adventurous night,” adds Rowan
From tent dressing rooms to cold alleys and everything inbetween, it can definitely be said that a lot more work goes into productions like this than meets the eye. Marianne VanStee puts it well: “It’s exciting. I love what I do, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it. You have to take ownership of the show when you’re working it because you’re responsible”
Get more details on show times and tickets here at broadwayinRichmond.com
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