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Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Ham And Jam And Spamalot

March 17th, 2005 No comments

Today sees the official opening of Monty Python’s Spamalot, a Broadway musical based, more or less, on the classic comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Almost from Day One (possibly Day Two, or the early morning of Day Three), the buzz has it that Spamalot is destined to be the next Producers. Having seen the show during its recent Chicago tryout, I’d have to agree. (Not that I’ve seen The Producers, because I foolishly missed its tryout run. When I heard about Spamalot, I was determined not to repeat that mistake.)

That’s not to say that Spamalot is any great piece of musical theatre. It is, after all, meant to be nothing more than a gloriously silly piece of fluff. Those who are expecting something more meaningful presumably walked into the wrong show by mistake.

My reading of Spamalot is that it’s less the Broadway musical version of Holy Grail than it is a piss take on the excesses of modern Broadway musicals. Not only are there the obvious swipes at Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, but the entire second act revolves around King Arthur’s secondary quest to stage his own musical, despite the tuneful, politically incorrect warning, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” (If You Don’t Have Any Jews).

While big-name talent such as writer Eric Idle, director Mike Nichols, and actors Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria get most of the press, for me the real star of the show is Sara Ramirez, who plays the Lady of the Lake and most of the other female parts. She belts out several of the best numbers, and in the Chicago version, she even played the Cow!

I found the early incarnation of Spamalot to be massively entertaining, though a bit long in the second act. (I’ve heard that they’ve made some trims, including the Cow’s mournful Marlene Dietrich impression.) I suspect that it will grace Broadway for a very long time.

Abdicating The Throne

January 31st, 2005 No comments

Last night finally brought an end to my reign as King of Digitopolis. It’s sad that I won’t see many of my fellow cast members again, but I’m certainly glad to get back my free time.

I did manage to walk away with both my pointy hat (which was originally mine, before the numbers were added) and my giant pencil. Both now adorn my office.

Here is a gallery of photos from The Phantom Tollbooth.

News From The Kingdom Of Wisdom

January 20th, 2005 No comments

Last night saw the opening night of The Phantom Tollbooth, or rather, the preview performance, a sort of final dress with an audience who only paid half-price for tickets.

While I did not break a leg, as the theatre saying goes, I did stub my toe very hard during the final battle with the Demons of Ignorance, and it’s still sore this afternoon. I guess that’s one of the risks of being a wartime leader.

Click on the photo for a larger image!

The show went well, though it was not without incident. During an early scene in “The Doldrums,” several of the Lethargians (shapeless blobs realized in true Doctor Who fashion by sticking an actor in a gray sack and zipping it closed) got disoriented when it was time to exit. Two of them rolled off the apron into the audience, and the third rolled into Milo’s bedroom on far stage left. There he sat for about a minute, thinking he was safely offstage, until he realized that he was up against Milo’s pile of pillows, and that the large, boxlike object was not the outhouse we keep in the wings until Act Two, but rather the tollbooth itself! In a panic, he rolled off the edge of the stage and exited through a side door. No one was hurt, though the director nearly died laughing during intermission. Too bad no one was videotaping!

Later, during my big scene as the Mathemagician, there’s a gag involving the largest number (a very tall three) and the longest number (a very wide eight). My minions are supposed to tote each across the stage in succession, but they couldn’t find the eight and therefore turned the three on its side and brought it back across. I covered the gaffe with a quip: “Here it is. It looks surprisingly like the other one.”

This second photo features the majority of the cast as seen in the final scene. Note the poor Dodecahedron on the far left, who is 1) not exactly even on all sides, and 2) inexplicably wearing a beret.

It’s Good To Be The King

November 24th, 2004 No comments

Last weekend I tried out for the Parkland College Theatre production of The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the classic children’s book by Norton Juster. I haven’t been in a play in years, but I’d been missing it. This production seemed like a good bet because I’m very fond of the book/movie and because it seemed like the sort of thing that wouldn’t attract many of the local thespians. (Which are legion around here, I can tell you.)

I decided that it would be really cool to be the Mathemagician, the King of Digitopolis. See, The Phantom Tollbooth is an allegory about the joys of learning, and tells the story of a young boy named Milo who brings together two kingdoms which are warring over whether letters or numbers are more important. (You can guess which the Mathemagician favors.)

After an audition during which I proved that I could be a complete fool on stage, I was invited back last night for callbacks. Instead of reading dialogue, I was asked to count in a “kingly” voice. I hammed it up for all it was worth, and apparently, it paid off, for today…

…I AM the King!

Rehearsals start soon, and the first performance is on January 19 at the Parkland College Theatre in Champaign.

Radio Free David Update

November 15th, 2004 No comments

This morning I was on the radio again, filling in as guest host for WILL-AM’s interview show, Focus 580. This was the first time I’d hosted a full hour on a subject I hadn’t personally selected.

The guests were Sam and Joan McCready, writer/actors who were in town to present a one-woman play about Lady Gregory, one of the founders of Ireland’s Abbey Theatre. While I have a theatre background–including a minor from Ball State University–this is serious Theatre, something I’ve largely attempted to avoid. Plus, the book of Lady Gregory’s memoirs which our producer had helpfully provided had threatened to put me to sleep the moment I cracked the spine. I admit I was very concerned that I’d run out of questions.

Thankfully, the two were pretty chatty, so I had (barely) enough material to get through the hour, even though the only listener to call in a question wanted to know the names of the guests. And I didn’t fall asleep–bonus! It turned out surprisingly well, and it’s available on the WILL web site if anyone cares.

I’ve just been scheduled to do another show on Monday, November 29 at 1:00 pm CST with Gerard Jones, author of the book “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book.” Should be fun! You can listen to it live.

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