"I think there's a seat over there, by the hand of God," directed Spamalot's producer, Sandy Klein, gesturing across the small hot black box theater on 2nd Street. The theater was filled shoulder-to-shoulder with resting cast members and oversized props on a muggy rehearsal night in early September. Snuggled between enormous wooden clouds and the ominous finger of the Lord, I watched the cast of 22 local actors sing, dance, act through asinine and hilarious musical numbers, including, the limping corpse filled "I'm Not Dead Yet," the Broadway standard "Song That Goes Like This," and the battle retreat refrain "Run Away!"
At times, the low ceilings seemed too small to contain the blend of voices all in crescendo, and it was absolutely too small to contain the magnitude of the dance routines, tapping and turning Knights narrowly avoiding the surrounding seats and the chorus girls performing half-kicks while cann-caning to avoid punting fellow actors.
"We're taking this comedy seriously," explained Gary Fulkerson, who plays King Arthur in the upcoming production of Spamalot. "Monty Python holds such a place in people's psyches it's dangerous ground to tread if you're not going to give it your all."
There's no question the local cast is all in. Director David DaCosta declared after one of the routines, "We have one more day in this little room," prompting cheers and fist pumps from cast members who were ready to take their production to the much larger stage at the Tower Theatre. In a later interview he added, "We're going to take over every inch of that stage."
The size of the production is a testament to the goals of the Tower Theatre's Marquee series, which offers sponsor dollars to local community theater groups to put on large-scale performances on the Tower's stage.
"It's our way of presenting some of the best theatrical productions in the area done by people in the area," said Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre.
"We normally wouldn't have the financial recourses to do this play," explained Klein, who heads up Stage Right Productions, the nonprofit that works with 2nd Street Theater year-round. "The Marquee Series gives us a chance to showcase what we do often on the 2nd Street stage in a big venue. People will be blown away by the local talent."
This year, the series is bigger, better and Spammier than ever before. Stage Right Productions has created an intensive staging of Spamalot with 175 costumes and a patchwork of Bend's theater community bringing to life the sheer idiocy, shrewd parody and crude fart jokes of the 1975 film classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Spamalot is the musical variation of the film, following the quest of King Arthur and his incompetent Knights of the Round Table to find the Holy Grail.
"Anyone who is a lover of the movie will love it," explained DaCosta, who on top of directing, voices God in the production (how appropriate). "It has everything they want to see, the killer rabbit, the Trojan rabbit and all the crazy characters."
The musical reinterpretation won three Tonys in 2005 (it was nominated for 14 with the enviable Tim Curry as King Arthur). All of the jokes that have been recycled and requested for 30 years reappear in a bouncing parody musical onslaught that the local actors have mastered.
"David allows the freedom for artists to bring this thing to life beyond the script. We stay true to what Eric Idle envisioned, but we're taking it and adding icing on top," said Fulkerson, who added that The Holy Grail was on constant replay for most of his childhood. "Bend is not going to know what hit them. It might be a flying cow or a rabbit."
To keep the momentum going on the dark nights between performance weekends, the Tower will be screening a Monty Python-athon, Life of Brian on Tuesday, Sept. 17, and Meaning of Life on Wednesday, Sept. 18, both at 7 pm. A ticket to Spamalot will grant you admittance to one of the movie nights.
Fri-Sat Sept. 13-14, 8 pm
Sun Sept. 15, 4 pm
Fri-Sun Sept. 19-21, 8 pm
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.
Tickets available at towertheatre.org