Stony Point’s ‘Spamalot’ cast ready to fill North Grand with music and belly laughs
By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
The motto for King Arthur’s Knights of the Roundtable is “All for One, One for All.”
For this weekend’s production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” presented by Charles City’s own Stony Point Players, the “all” is well over 100 local people, and the “one” local actor is sometimes playing three, four or five different characters.
The result is likely to be an amazing spectacle for the audience, including complex musical numbers, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen, fearsome Knights of Ni and tap-dancing, not-quite-dead-yet people.
“They are going to get to see a little bit of everything,” said Jessica Schwickerath, who plays the female lead of The Lady of the Lake. “This is a really funny show. It’s packed with shenanigans. They’re going to laugh, they’re going to have a great time. People are going to miss out if they don’t come.”
The show will run Thursday through Sunday at the North Grand Auditorium. Tickets are available online now at www.showtix4u.com. The shows will start at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students. There will also be tickets available at the door before the shows.
Costume designer Linda Hughes said that the production has more than 110 costume changes — so many that she’s “lost count.” Many in the cast have helped with special costume items that couldn’t be found, and many of them are also playing multiple roles in the play.
“The main characters are just playing one role, but almost every peripheral character is playing at least three roles,” Hughes said.
Nearly 40 local actors, singers and dancers are taking part in the Tony-award winning musical comedy, which is adapted from the Monty Python comedy troupe’s 1975 film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and other well-known Monty Python sketches, and is a highly irreverent parody of the legend of King Arthur.
“I hope a lot of people show up,” said Larry Michehl, who plays the lead role of King Arthur. “We’ve put a lot of time into it, and they’ll enjoy it once they get here.”
As the lead, Michehl is one of the few actors on the stage who plays only one role — but it’s a big one. Michehl is in nearly every scene, and brings a wealth of stage experience to the production. Many of the shows he’s appeared in have been directed by Janeice Bergland, who is directing “Spamalot.”
“I don’t know how Janeice does it. She gets me to do the darnedest things,” Michehl said. “She has a way of getting people to do things.”
Bergland has said the show features ambitious and intricate song and dance numbers and “funny, funny dialogue” full of dark humor, slapstick comedy and British colloquialisms. Bergland is also the production’s set designer.
According to Michehl, Spamalot is far and away the most unusual production he’s performed in. The song and dance numbers are as intricate as any Broadway show, the costuming is elaborate and exhaustive, the set design is a feat of artistic engineering.
“It’s a lot of fun. So many people are familiar with some of the scenes that are in it,” he said. “The lines are just so insanely stupid, it just makes it so much fun to do.”
Even with all his stage experience, Michehl said he still gets a little bit nervous and anxious as opening night approaches.
“The nerves always set in — if they didn’t, there’s something wrong,” Michehl said. “The timing — if we can get the timing down, we’ll be OK.”
Schwickerath said that she’s too busy to be nervous, once the curtain rises.
“I’m more nervous off stage. Once I get on, it’s showtime and everything feels great,” she said. “There is so much going on, and there are so many costume changes. I’ve been joking that I spend more time back stage changing costumes than I do onstage singing.”
Schwickerath also has a wealth of stage experience. She has a masters in vocal performance from Colorado State and has performed in opera productions such as “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute.” Her well-trained voice is necessary in Spamalot, as her role as the Lady of the Lake calls for her to sing in numerous different styles and musical genres. She holds her own in a cast consisting mostly of men.
“It’s really hard being the only named female role — and the only big female singing role — in a male-heavy show,” she said. “You really have to be a siren, and a team player and play all the characters and still maintain your one character, while playing slight variations on a part.”
Having gone through rehearsal upon rehearsal to a near-empty theater, she’s anxious to see more seats filled in North Grand Auditorium.
“It’s been hard playing to an empty house, but obviously that will improve in a few days,” Schwickerath said.
Other main roles are Josh Vaske-Huff as Patsy, Luke Royer as Sir Robin, Steve Hanson as Sir Lancelot, Tanner Striegel as Sir Galahad, Griffin Franksain as Sir Bedevere, Michael Peterson as Not Dead Fred, Erik Gordon as the Historian and the French Taunter, and Mike Lembke as Tim the Enchanter.
Musical director Derek Sturtevant has assembled a 10-piece orchestra for the production, made up of “some former music teachers, some professional players, and some former students who are alumni.”
The pit musicians are pianist Chris Cleveland, Jake Gassman on trombone, Emily Schuldt on French horn, Lyle Western and Karissa Jensen on trumpet, Scott Stroud on sax, Hayden Pleggenkuhl and Nicole Loftus on drums and percussion. Also, Isaak Jensen on guitar, Darian Cleveland on bass and guest pianist Harrison Sheckler.
Amy Wolfe is the choreographer, Stacey Oleson is stage manager, Justin Devore is the tech director, lights are manned by Isaiah Ortiola and Emma Schmiedel, sound by Kylie Effle and Carrie Field, makeup and hair by Lynn Bauer, props by Kristin George, fundraising by Linda Brandt, and Stony Point Players President Michelle Grob is the show’s producer.
Michehl said he hopes the audience can escape and enjoy themselves for a couple of hours this weekend.
“They’re going to have a lot of fun I think,” he said. “They can just sit back, and get a few belly laughs.”