The Russell Association for the Performing Arts (RAPA) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and, in honour and recognition of anniversary tradition, RAPA members have chosen a real “pearl” of a production to put on stage. Start with a grain of irritating puns and coat them with layers of off-the-wall song-and-dance routines, bold, brave, and sometimes buffoonish knights in armour, or at least almost-real-genuine-simulated-faux armour, a beautiful otherworldly enchantress who is a real diva type, and a legendary king who just wants to do the right thing. Yes, that’s right, it’s Monty Python’s Spamalot!
“We’re really good at horrible jokes,” said Joyce Chartrand, with a chuckle, during a phone interview. Chartrand, who has been a RAPA member since 1997, when she was cast for a role in The Nerd, is sitting in the assistant director’s chair for this production. As the AD she is the right-hand-woman for project director/producer Gord Hawkes, helping him get the quest off to a good start and on course to its glorious guffawing end.
“I’m another set of ears and eyes here,” she said. “Gord is an excellent director, with great vision, and he asked me to help, so I said ‘Yes,’ since I can’t sing.”
Something completely different
Spamalot! is the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a British comedy classic movie that took the revered Legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, turned it upside down and spun it around to see who and what falls out.
Since RAPA has an anniversary this year, Spamalot! seemed a logical choice. “It’s like the Holy Grail of musical plays, isn’t it?” said Chartrand, chuckling. “At RAPA we like doing stuff that is a bit off-beat. This is a Big Picture piece but with a little bit of edge and a little off-the-wall. And besides, it’s the Quest of the Holy Grail!”
Just as in the movie, the knights never ride around on horses; they trot around, knocking together coconut shell halves to mimic the sound of horse hooves. Expect to hear a lot of coconut-clacking during Spamalot! That is assuming the set deco and props’ gang is able to find enough coconuts for everyone who wants to go “horse riding.” Otherwise some folks may need to “double up” on their coconuts.
Doubling up is also part of the challenge for some of the 20 cast members, who may also portray one-off walk-on characters in addition to their primary roles.
“It is an ambition production,” said Chartrand, “and most of the cast is on stage almost all of the time. There’s lots of singing and dancing. The challenge, for a show this iconic, is you have to find the fine line between slavishly reproducing what has been done before, and letting the actors infuse some of their own personalities into the roles.”
The Quest for Spamalot! begins the last week of April and continues to its hilarious end during the first week of May. Check the RAPA website for advance and reserve ticket information.