The original 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards

Published in the April 25 – May 8, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Photo by Marty Cheek
Some of the cast of “Spamalot,” a Monty Python spoof, get crazy at Live Oak High School during a dress rehearsal.

King Arthur and his knights will go on a highly hilarious journey in their quest for the Holy Grail on the Live Oak High School theater stage starting April 26. Student actors will perform six shows of the musical comedy “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” an irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend.

Director Andrew Cummings invites the South Valley community to enjoy the show for its silly songs and weird Python gags such as the famous “killer rabbit” scene and Arthur’s bizarre “only a flesh wound” battle with the Black Knight.

“Spamalot” is adapted from the comedy classic 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols and written by Monty Python comedian Eric Idle, won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical. It received 14 Tony Award nominations.

“The music in a lot of ways is pretty faithful to the movie. You can clearly see the connections of the original dialogue and the songs that have been created,” Cummings said. “And I think it’s pretty strong in that they didn’t take jokes that people love and sing them into the ground. The songs are original enough so that you don’t get tired of the humor.”

The Live Oak Drama Guild likes to rotate its student theater productions between Shakespeare, a classical musical such as “The Music Man,” and a contemporary Broadway show, he said. The show “Spamalot” also allows flexibility in choosing students actors for various roles, a necessity given the challenging  nature of casting males.

“Some (high school) theaters struggle to get a lot of boys to try out for plays,” Cummings said. “That’s actually the most common high school theater problem ever. ‘Spamalot,’ because of its goofy tone and farcical nature, we felt we could get away with some nontraditional casting. So, 90 percent of our leads are women playing men. And they’re knocking it out of the park.”

Not only will Monty Python fans enjoy the farce but people who are fans of farcical song-and-dance theater, he said.

“Part of the humor of the show is the way it lampoons the Broadway musical,” he said. “So, for anybody who is a lover of musical theater in general or any theater, this show could be considered a love letter to theater. They’ll love the show because it’s super funny. With upbeat songs and the super-fast dialogue, it’s going to be a blast.”

Live Oak freshman Jenna Hernandez plays the key role of King Arthur. She has performed in plays since she was three. In the show, the medieval monarch travels the land of England with his servant Patsy, who follows him around banging two coconut shells together to make the sound of a horse’s hooves as Arthur “rides” before him. Arthur is trying to recruit Knights of the Round Table to join him in Camelot.

“He’s a fun, babbling idiot, that’s how I describe King Arthur,” Hernandez said. “It’s a super hilarious comedy and the audience will have a real good time.”

Esmeralda Mendoza, a senior at Live Oak, plays Arthur’s faithful servant.

“Patsy is the underdog. He’s always following the hero,” she said. “He’s never seen but he’s a very loved character. I believe everyone loves Patsy because he’s always looking on the bright side of life.”

Preparing since February for the upcoming performances, she said “Spamalot” invites the audience to enter a comical world of the absurd.

“You come together with a bunch of actors and actresses to present something to the world,” she said. “And it becomes something so magical.”

Playing the dual roles of Lady of the Lake and Guinevere is Brianna Pember, a Live Oak senior. She recently starred in South Valley Civic Theatre’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She invites friends and family to “Spamalot” to see her final show at Live Oak. She hopes to pursue a career in musical theater.

“The Lady of the Lake is really fun because she’s a diva and she makes no sense and she can be confusing in the context of the show,” Pember said. “But it’s fun to watch because she’s so random. The show is so funny and weird. There’s really big musical numbers. And we have cool costumes being shipped in from New York. Come see it… and say goodbye to me.”

Live Oak sophomore Becca Snook plays the role of Sir Robin, the Not-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot. A chicken on her knight costume’s vestment demonstrates the character’s chivalrous courage.

“I’m very brave. I killed a chicken to show my bravery, after I wet myself,” Snook said.

The character of Sir Robin doesn’t fit in with the knights because he’s an outsider, she said.

“He tries his best,” Snook said. “He’s more about musical theater than the whole fighting thing. He’s along for the ride.”

Snook gets to sing a song called “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” written for the Broadway version of the story.

“It’s about how you need Jewish people to put a good show on Broadway,” she said. “I find it hilarious because I am Jewish.”

Angela Tabora, a Live Oak senior, plays the role of Sir Bedevere the Strangely Flatulent who wears an oddly shaped knight’s helmet fashioned out of a plastic garbage pail.

“I’m the inept scholar,” she said in describing her character. “I’m technically the logic and brains of most things. Although my logic doesn’t make sense. I built a large wooden rabbit that’s like a Trojan horse. But it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to because the knights are supposed to get in it, but we don’t do that.”

Lucy Kaelin, a Live Oak sophomore, plays the role of Sir Dennis Galahad, the Dashingly Handsome. The character starts off as a peasant named Dennis the Mud Gatherer.

“He mines mud for a living and one day King Arthur comes upon him and he asks, ‘What are you doing? You’re not my king?’” Kalen said. “Dennis become Sir Galahad, which is the opposite of what he was. He’s dashingly handsome instead of a gross mud gatherer.”

Kalen grew up with “Monty Python,” watching episodes with her dad and laughing together at the British show’s absurd comedy. She knew she needed to be in “Spamalot.”

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Kyle Northam, a Live Oak senior, plays the role of Sir Lancelot the Homicidally Brave.

“Lancelot is kind of a complex character. He’s got some stuff going on,” he said. “He’s psychotic. He kills a few people here and there and doesn’t really care about others.”

Being in the show lets Northam have a lot of fun with other student actors.

“The best part of being in ‘Spamalot’ is the cast,” he said. “They make it a fun show.”

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek