News Column

'SPAMALOT's' cockeyed Camalot ready for CLT stage [Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME)]

August 3, 2013

YellowBrix

AUBURN -- In the beginning, there was "Monty Python's Flying Circus," a totally silly British TV show that baffled many American viewers, and it delighted many more, in its long run on PBS. That begat the blockbuster Broadway musical "Spamalot," by way of the hilariously irreverent movie, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in 1975.

Daryn Slover

King Arthur, played by John B. Nutting, is a happy man during rehearsal for the Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre musical Spamalot. Surrounding the King are clockwise from lower left: Olivia Mayo, Katie Lauze, Jennifer McClure-Groover, David Handley, Rebecca Caron, Heather Marichal and Jen Fox.

Now, King Arthur and a crazy crew of Camelot characters are headed for the Community Little Theatre stage Aug. 9-18 for Maine's premiere production of "Spamalot."

Two of CLT's veteran directors, John Blanchette and Richard Martin, are co-directing "Spamalot." Blanchette and Martin shared an interview for Sun Journal earlier this week to explain the complexities they worked through in bringing "Spamalot" to local audiences.

It's a huge show with 22 actors, many of whom play as many as eight or nine roles requiring a total of 300 costumes.

The set is an adaptation of the Broadway scenery, Martin said, and the limits of stage size and off-stage space required some creativity. The former gymnasium area backstage at the former Edward Little High School building became their scenic design shop, and some tweaking of the stage's proscenium arch made the show possible, they said.

Putting the 13-piece orchestra on the third floor is another innovation for Blanchette and Martin.

"There's some serious technology" involved in that, Blanchette said. The sound is "piped in to the theater's speakers," he said, and a two-way video feed from theater to third floor will allow music director Paul G. Caron to handle the music cues with accuracy.

Rhonda Webber plays the Lady of the Lake, a character not in the movie, and Blanchette said her song, "The Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part)" is a highlight. He said Webber's vocal range spans styles "from Brittany Spears to Liza Minnelli."

A song that's likely to be most familiar to audiences is "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life," which was originally in another Python movie, "Life of Brian."

"Spamalot" is jam-packed with song and dance. In fact, it takes the talent of two choreographers, Vincent Ratsavong and Rebecca Caron, to pull it off. Leah Fournier is dance captain and Katie St. Pierre is producer.

The two directors emphasize that each of them contributed equally.

"We decided to split direction of the scenes between us, and then look at each other's work and make sure we had a common vision," Blanchette said. It was a rule that actors of one director's scene could not go to the director of the other scenes. In other words, he said, "The cast was not allowed to go to Mom and complain about Dad."

Finding some of the eccentric assortment of props was another challenge. A Holy Grail was essential, but the show also requires six smaller cups of similar design, not to mention a cow, six large fish and 12 smaller fish.

"It's all insanely silly," Martin said. The scenery includes some of the iconic images of the classic TV show, such as the huge stomping bare foot and the finger of God from Heaven. The show's scenic artists have done a fine job of mimicking the TV look created by Terry Gilliam, Martin said.

Some of the show's silly moments include King Arthur's entrance, signaled by the sound of a trotting horse, and culminating in a side- splitting sight gag as he arrives. Other features of this cockeyed Camelot are a line of beautiful dancing girls, a flatulent Frenchman and killer rabbits.

There will be some "audience interaction," the directors said.

For tickets, call 207-783-0958 or go online to www.laclt.com. Tickets are $18, and $15 for seniors.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 9-10 and 16-17, as well as 7:30 on Thursday, Aug. 15. Matinees at 2 p.m. are scheduled for Sundays, Aug. 11 and 18.

Community Little Theatre productions are at Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn.

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