“Monty Python’s Spamalot” – lovingly “ripped off from the motion picture” Monty Python and the Holy Grail “- includes all the irreverence of the hit 1975 film parody of the Arthurian legend – from show-stopping song and dance numbers to a battle of baguettes to a flying cow. The 2005 Broadway production was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning three, including Best Musical.
“We all need to be happy coming out of the pandemic,” said Carol Dunne, producing artistic director of White River Junction’s Northern Stage.
“People need to laugh,” she said. “We chose it a year ago in the middle of a COVID winter, and we wanted something that would delight people and make them forget their troubles.
“It’s hysterical. It’s smart. It’s stupid. And it has a great heart, ”Dunne said. “Ultimately it comes down to being a great Valentine to musical theater.”
Northern Stage is presenting “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, “April 13-May 15 at the Barrette Center for the Arts’ Byrne Theater.
As the musical comedy closes the Upper Valley Equity professional theater company current season, Northern Stage is announcing its 2022-23 season.
“This will be our 25th anniversary season, so every single show is very much focused on celebrating what Northern Stage is in the community,” Dunne said. “Our new musical ‘Shook’ (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) is about Shakespeare, and that connects with our Shakespeare in the Schools program. ‘The Railway Children’ (Nov. 22-Jan. 1) is being adapted for our area, a railroad junction. It’s celebrating what Northern Stage has come to be: three out of six plays being world premieres is a celebration of our commitment to new work. ”
The new season also includes “Side by Side by Sondheim” (June 15-July 10) at the Courtyard Theater, the world premiere of Celeste Jennings ‘”‘ Bov Water” (Jan. 25-Feb. 12), Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat ”(March 8-26), and the Kate Hammill comic adaptation of Jane Austen’s“ Sense and Sensibility ”(June 14-July 9), also at the Courtyard Theater.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” debuted on Broadway in a production directed by Mike Nichols, which was seen by more than 2 million people and grossed $ 175 million in its initial run. The plot follows King Arthur traveling around England to recruit his Knights of the Round Table. When he and his band of misfit knights finally gather in Camelot, they receive a charge from God to find the Holy Grail. The quest brings them to strange places and into the company of strange characters, challenging them to keep their heads on straight or die terribly weird deaths.
“We are not reinventing Monty Python,” explained Dunne, who is directing. “We decided to stay very close to the script – in terms of the castle and what it looks like and what it feels like.
“Our freedom in this is making sure there is a heart to it, that the journey is very much felt – the search for the Holy Grail is felt honestly by everyone,” she said. “And that every scene has a heart to it, a truth to it – people trying to do the impossible.”
The key to that is for the heart to outweigh – but not forget – the slapstick.
“For me, it’s not slapstick,” Dunne said. “There’s a subtlety to how the Mont Python stuff is acted. Yes, there is physical slapstick, but a lot of it is that British humor that is very simple and straightforward – and incredibly insane. ”
Northern Stage’s physical production may well resemble the Broadway production – and that’s no accident.
“We rented the Broadway costumes and props,” Dunne said. “We did this because we were understaffed, so for the quality of life for our company to put on something this huge, we thought the most supportive thing we could do was to rent this package.
“We have this tremendous opportunity to play with props that were designed for the Broadway show that are bigger and more outrageous than we could have come up with.”
Northern Stage’s cast is a whopping 22 – unheard of these days of COVID.
“It’s huge,” Dunne said. “It’s the biggest thing we’ve done since COVID, by far. So it’s been a joy to feel the company up and running at 100% again. It’s also amazing to be working with singers and dancers in this piece who have not had the chance, they were so hungry to get it.
“Everybody in the show acknowledges that it is a real gift that we are doing this right now.”