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King Arthur and killer rabbits at UNCG

by Lenise Willis

| lenise@yesweekly.com

The thought of King Arthur and his noble Knights of the Round Table conjure an image nothing short of honor, glory and awesomeness. It’s a legendary tale, fun for boys to reenact… and apparently fun to parody, too.

Spamalot, directed by Jim Wren, is based on the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a musical that parodies the legendary tale of King Arthur. The real fun begins when the adventurers meet such oddities as a line of beautiful dancing girls, a flatulent Frenchmen and, yes, even killer rabbits.

“Spamalot provides great challenges for everyone on the production team,” says Director Jim Wren, a UNCG theater professor. “It’s a massive musical with a large cast, a large orchestra, ridiculous technical demands and silly design challenges — you try to figure out how to catapult a cow across the stage.

“It’s also a plus that in 1975, when I was 15, I memorized almost the entire film. This is my opportunity to prove to my wife that this is actually funny stuff.”

In short, the play is both a homage and parody of musical theater. “In the best Python tradition, everything is fodder for mockery,” Wren adds.

For the film fans, all of the iconic characters will make an appearance, including the Black Knight and the Knights Who Say Ni, as well as such musical additions as the Lady of the Lake.

“My character is an actress who is one big diva through and through,” says Emily Gardenhire, who plays the Lady of the Lake. “She is playing the Lady of the Lake in this musical, but you also see her as herself. She is a Broadway diva in every sense of the word — when there’s spotlight to steal and even when there’s not, she steals it. She’s sexy, sassy, demanding and blunt.

“I can’t say that I am too similar to the Lady of the Lake, but I do think that all actresses have a Broadway diva in them somewhere, and I am enjoying playing hear all the familiar dialogue and oneliners of the movie but it’s had a head-on collision with the glamour of Broadway. It’s very fun.”

Wren says that audiences should arrive expecting the unexpected, randomness and absolute wackiness. And although the piece isn’t a solemn production, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have serious challenges for the cast and crew.

The cast will have their energy tested, posing as tap-dancing knights and a line of can-can dancers piling out of a castle. The stage crew also had to overcome the difficulties of displaying challenges of acting. “Musically, the show is a beast. I have to make sure that I am warmed up really well and ready to sing in any style at the drop of a hat. I have to be fully committed to every night and trust myself to sing it in true diva fashion.”

“It’s a fantastic collaboration for our School of Music, Theatre and Dance with a cast of 27, an orchestra of 15, a crew of over 40 and faculty and student involvement from all disciplines,” Wren says.

WANNA go?

Spamalot runs at UNCG’s Taylor Theatre, located at 402 Tate St., at select times Oct. 2-10. Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for seniors and students; $7 for UNCG students. For tickets or more information call 336.334.4849 or visitbrownpapertickets.com/event/410468.

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