One month to go before the community musical Spamalot lifts the curtain, and there’s a determination among the cast and crew to put on a stellar performance for residents and for a friend who recently passed away.
When Crystal Lorette, general manager at the Lester Centre of the Arts, found out she had the rights to put on Monty Python’s Spamalot, she called the city’s staple musical director Peter Witherly.
“I called up Peter to ask if the music can be done, then we know we have a show. He said, ‘Absolutely’,” Lorette said on March from inside the auditorium while a rehearsal took place on stage.
They started working on the comedic musical in September, held auditions in October, and in February Witherly died after a brief struggle with pancreatic cancer.
In honour of the beloved musician, two people stepped up to keep the show rolling: Kristy Tillman has taken over musical direction and Jilda Farias has come on to do vocals. For Witherly, the show must go on.
Spamalot is loosely based on the 1973 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. More than 25 actors will take the stage, with British expat Keith Lambourne as the lead actor — King Arthur.
“He’s the king of Britain, and Scotland and England and tiny little bits of Gaul, but it’s a 1,000 years ago, and the only reason that he’s king is because he keeps going around telling everyone that he is,” Lambourne said after rehearsing the “Always look on the bright side of the life” scene.
Lambourne grew up in England and watched Monty Python as a child. He loved the comedy group for their inherent silliness. He’s seen every movie and has many of their records.
Monty Python isn’t totally new to the Lester Centre stage. A few years ago, when the theatre held a British Invasion night, Monty Python skits were thrown in between musical sets.
But you don’t have to be a Monty Python fan to enjoy the show. Co-director Lyle McNish said: “For somebody who’s never seen that type of stuff, it’s just fun. A lot of slapstick, a lot of fun word play, just all the way through from the very beginning to the end it’s just a big romp. It’s lots of laughs and lots of fun.”
McNish, who directed the rock musical hit Rock of Ages two years ago, is working alongside with co-director Richard Jerstad. There is still quite a lot of work to do with only a month to go before the show opens for April 5-7.
Actors are still sorting out their lines and syncing their song and dance on stage with Jennifer Kloppers, the choreographer. They must also time their songs with the orchestra, who will play live in the pit.
“It’s not just the people on stage but it’s the people in the orchestra pit, it’s the volunteers at the theatre, it’s the people who build the sets, it’s obviously the people who come through the door in order to support it.
“The musicians, and sadly we lost Peter Witherly recently, Kristy stepped up and has done a brilliant job with the orchestra, who want to make this as good as they can for Pete, and we all want to do that. We all want to knock this one out of the park in memory of our mate,” Lambourne said.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Lester Centre or Cook’s Jewellers for the April 5, 6, 7 shows.