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Watertown Lyric Theater staging wacky, vocally challenging ‘Spamalot’ for two weekends


The latest show from Watertown Lyric Theater will be as stimulating as a slap in the face with a cold fish.

The “Fisch Schlapping Song” is the opening number in “Spamalot,” which will be staged by Watertown Lyric Theater for two weekends: this Friday and Saturday and Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12.

“Spamalot” is a lavish musical based on the 1974 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Like the movie, which is very loosely based on the legendary tale of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail, the stage version features killer rabbits, a Black Knight who says farewell to arms — and legs — “outrageous Frenchmen” and a chorus line of dancing divas and knights.

Faces are slapped with fish in the opening number after the musical mistakenly opens with a setting of an idyllic Scandinavian village.

The name “Spamalot” is derived from the song “Knights of the Round Table,” in which the knights sing: “We dine well here in Camelot/We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot.”

Music and lyrics are by the Grammy Award-winning team of Eric Idle and John Du Prez. The show won three Tony Awards, including best musical and best director in 2005 and a Grammy Award in 2006 for its original cast recording.

“Even if you are not a Monty Python fan, the show is ridiculously funny,” said Kevin R. Kitto, who is directing the show with his wife, Marietta. Mr. Kitto is also the show’s production manager.

It’s easy to focus on the show’s comedy while overlooking the show’s award-winning music.

“Vocally, it’s a very challenging show,” said Allie Nettles-Casey, a 2005 graduate of Carthage Central High School, who plays the Lady of the Lake, a diva. “It’s probably the most challenging show vocally I’ve ever done.”

Mrs. Nettles-Casey, a soprano, has been in other Lyric Theater shows, including “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2003 when she played Christine. She recently returned to the north country after living in Georgia.

Christopher D. Autote, who plays King Arthur in “Spamalot,” compared the show’s music to “Oliver!” which was staged by Lyric Theater last fall. Mr. Autote, an elementary music teacher in Carthage, had a small role in “Oliver!” He also played the captain in Lyric Theater’s “The Sound of Music” in 2012.

“In ‘Oliver!’, everything was all unison,” Mr. Autote said. “We were all singing on the same pitch. This one has a lot of intricate harmony parts.”

Mr. Autote said that at times, there are several vocal elements happening at once in “Spamalot” — from the ensemble to the main characters. The challenge, he said, is “getting that all together.”

“Getting it all together, while singing, dancing and still being funny,” added Mrs. Nettles-Casey.

spring comedy break

Mr. Kitto said he and his wife decided last year, before this harsh winter, that spring would be a good time to stage a show with lots of comedy.

“We have some harsh winters and everybody needs to come out and have a good laugh in the early spring to get rid of the winter doldrums and to just have a great time,” he said.

He said “theater magic” was used to portray some of the more unusual situations in the musical.

“This show by far is the most challenging technical show that we have done as an organization in a very long time,” he said.

He said that in addition to special effect props, a video projection system will be used for some scenes.

Mr. Kitto faced another challenge early into “Spamalot” rehearsals. The person who played several characters, including Prince Herbert, had to leave the production when his job required him to travel overseas. So Mr. Kitto stepped into the roles.

No orchestra

The musical will feature canned digital music instead of a traditional live orchestra.

“One of the main reasons is the style and type of the instruments needed for this production,” said Mr. Kitto. “It’s all Renaissance style. There’s lots of lutes and strings.”

He added that the musicians Lyric Theater usually call upon have been busy with high school musicals.

“It’s always a hard time of year to get a good-sized orchestra and this would have been a large one,” he said.

In another twist for Lyric Theater, “Spamalot” will be staged on two weekends instead of three or four consecutive days.

“We haven’t tried this before,” Mr. Kitto said. “We didn’t feel like it was a matinee-style show. Even though we’re touting it as an adult comedy, parental guidance is suggested. It’s not full of any bad words or anything like that.”

“There’s nothing vulgar,” Mrs. Kitto said.

“It’s all innuendo and all those overtones are done tongue-in-cheek,” Mr. Kitto said.

Well, except maybe for the “Fisch Schlapping Song.” That’s all done gill-to-cheek.

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Others in the main cast of Watertown Lyric Theater’s production of “Spamalot” are Jonathan Cole, Jim Goodenbery, Tom Piroli and Parker Leikam as the Knights of the Round Table and other roles and Scott Taylor as Patsy.

In the ensemble are Barry Davis, Robert Kimball, Brett Hayes, Cameron Young, Aidan Hennessey, Jeff Comet, Gabrielle Harryman, Jodi Castello, Katie Comet, Jennifer Walck, Tanya Roy and Karen Fargo.

The details
WHAT: “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” by Watertown Lyric Theater
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St.
COST: Tickets are $15 general admission and $12 for students, senior citizens and members of the military. Special reserve seating is available for an additional $10, with proceeds going to Lyric Theater’s scholarship fund. Advance tickets are available at Sherwood Florist in the Watertown Shopping Plaza, 1314 Washington St.
OF NOTE: There will be a cocktail hour at 7 p.m. before all four shows in the State Office Building lobby. Drinks will be provided by the Paddock Club and hors d’oeuvres by the Black River Valley Club.
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