BWW Previews: SPAMALOT at The Playhouse
Aisle Say's favorite interview was yesterday, with King Arthur (Steve McCoy) of SPAMALOT, opening at The Playhouse on October 25 and running for 4 nights. Mais oui, a kindred spirit, but his career took a slightly different trajectory than mine; a 20-year-old moving to NYC in 1970, attempting to make it on Broadway (and failing miserably).
McCoy's 30-year career includes national tours portraying some of the most signature and sought-after male roles in the canon of musical theatre: Quixote in LA MANCHA, Will Rogers in the Will Rogers FOLLIES, THE BOY FROM OZ, Curly in the 50th international tour of OKLAHOMA! (which he sang and acted for 1000 performances, playing 9 months in Germany alone) and Bill Sykes in OLIVER.
Bill Sykes' malevolent character and Quixote's quixotic one are a long long way from the zany King Arthur of SPAMALOT, adapted from the 1975 film MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. To understate, a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend, it is unquestionably one of the funniest musicals ever.
McCoy was in the first national tour as Arthur in 2010. The very fact that a second national tour was mounted is testament to its wild popularity - even though the show is now available for community theatre presentation. (Candlelight Music Theatre's show last year was drop dead hysterical). Let's put it this way, hysteria never loses traction, no matter how many times one sits in the audience.
McCoy was a delight. We spoke of cabbages and kings. "Quixote was my favorite role. Each night it was very emotional and took a lot out of me. Bill Sykes, so anathema to who I am personally, that was a reach as well".
Of all his roles and productions, King Arthur and SPAMALOT is 'the most joyous'. "If I am in the worst mood, the overture of SPAMALOT disperses the doldrums instantaneously, it is such an incredibly fun show".
McCoy saw Tim Curry, the first Arthur, on Broadway. During rehearsals for the 2010 tour, original director and theatre and film legend Mike Nichols would drop by. Nichols' wisdom has been imprinted in McCoy's mind: "Trust the material. Remember to kill your babies" (yes, an odd analogy). Explaining that phrase, McCoy says that he meant, 'play out of your comfort zone. Play your character for truth'.
Also, from time to time Eric Idle would drop by. Idle taught him the following, "you must develop a certain cadence and timing in your dialogue. Play the words straight. YOU are not funny", said Idle, "the MATERIAL is funny. Just say the line as if you truly, sincerely believe it. That's what makes it funny". McCoy reinforced this notion with the following visual: Arthur rides around on stage on a mechanical horse. His manservant Patsy is banging coconuts together to sound like horse's hooves. That's absurd, right? Well, if you really don't believe that is really happening to you, you certainly won't convince the audience otherwise. It then ceases to be funny.
Both Idle and John Cleese remain in the show in absentia. Idle opens the production with this somber recording, "let your cellphones and pagers ring willy-nilly, but be aware there are heavily armed knights on stage that may drag you on stage and impale you."
Broadway musical fans appreciate SPAMALOT references to other musicals and musical theatre in general, such as: "The Song That Goes Like This", a shade on Andrew Lloyd Webber or the knights doing a dance reminiscent of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and WEST SIDE STORY.
This show is completely nuts. It has universal appeal for Broadway wonks like Aisle Say or husbands dragged along to accompany wives for a night out. Everyone likes to laugh. There's a reason it won 14 Tony Awards and over 2 million people have seen it.
October 25-28 The Playhouse 302.888.0200
Up Next @ The Playhouse: Cirque Dreams Holidaze November 23-25