Phoenix raises first NEPA production of ‘Spamalot’

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First Posted: 8/5/2013

It’s not a horse, just two coconuts banging together to make the sound of one.

There’s a guy named Tim the Enchanter who touts a Killer Rabbit.

People get slapped in the face with fish.

Yet, it’s all typical, at least for the stage show of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

This weekend is the opening for the show at the Phoenix Performing Arts Centre in Duryea. It is “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” a comedy that captured three Tony Awards and 14 nominations. This production will be the first in the area.

The Weekender caught up with Lee LaChette, artistic director at the PAC and director and choreographer for the show, about the organized madness that is “Spamalot.”

THE WEEKENDER: What is Spamalot all about?

LEE LACHETTE: It’s about King Arthur and his sidekick Patsy searching for Knights of the Round Table. As he rides his horse through the land (which is just a pair of dried coconut shells clanking together that Patsy makes sound like a horse), he hooks up with the zaniest knights that becomes his troop. Along the way, he meets up with God, who sends him on a quest for the Holy Grail to be an example. They run into Frenchies who catapult a cow at them, the Knights Who Say Ni, the Black Knight, and Tim the Enchanter with his Killer Rabbit.

W: Does the stage show differ from the film?

LL: Of course the big difference is the musical numbers, but it is similar in the plot.

W: As a director, were there any challenges for you with this show?

LL: This show is very costume, prop, and set heavy, making it very difficult for a small community theatre. The show is very detailed and specific in what it requires to do a professional production. I searched the Internet for authentic props and helmets, our costume directors made the knights’ tunics, and we had our resident artist draw and paint each Knight’s outfit by hand to match exactly to the Broadway production. We also had one of our costumer’s mothers hand crochet the chainmail shirts for the knights. We have gone all out for this production, paying attention to the smallest details.

W: How about as a choreographer?

LL: The musical numbers were very challenging. We started the choreography before even blocking the show and worked on them for weeks. Each musical number is bigger than the last. It is a very dance heavy show with a lot of chaos in each number. There is always so much going on during each song, so it wasn’t like you just learned some steps and danced it. Most of my knights even had to learn to tap dance. The choreography is almost exact to what was done in the Broadway production. It was a lot of hard work, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

W: Why do you think Spamalot is such a hit with audiences?

LL: The show is just so much fun. When I saw it in preview a month before it opened, we laughed through the entire show. It is just hilarious Monty Python humor. It captures you right from the opening straight through to the end, with never a dull moment. The musical numbers will have you tapping your feet in your seat. I knew after seeing it that someday I was going to direct and choreograph this show. It is truly a choreographer’s dream to do this many big dance numbers in one show with a touch of hilarious. I’ve waited three years for their touring to end to get the licensing for this show, and it was well worth the wait. We are so proud to be the first in Northeast Pennsylvania to premier this show.

W: What’s your favorite thing about the show?

LL: Everything. There is nothing in this show that I don’t love. The whole concept, humor, songs, and dances are my favorite. I can’t pick just one thing. I had a blast with the whole show. These young adults are so amazing; you will not want to miss it.