You don’t have to be a fan of Monty Python to enjoy Brentwood College School’s production of Spamalot. Nor do you have to be a fan of musical theatre, or the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
You just have to relax and enjoy the ride. Which may or may not be accompanied by the sounds of coconut halves.
“I think anyone will enjoy it,” says Jack Napier-Ganley, who plays King Arthur in Brentwood’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical, which runs this Wednesday to Saturday. “You have to be open to it.”
Spamalot is a twisted musical take on the tales of King Arthur. It is described by its creators as “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, although it is only marginally more faithful to the movie than the movie was to the stories that inspired it.
King Arthur (Napier-Ganley) leads his knights, Sir Lancelot (Callum Blake-Currier), Sir Bedevere (Torren Kaiser), Sir Robin (Hugh Rimmer) and Sir Galahad (Felix Wilson) and loyal servant Patsy (Brendan O’Farrell) on a quest for the Holy Grail with inspiration from the Lady of the Lake (Kenya Bontkes). Along the way, they encounter showgirls, cheerleaders, Knights who Say “Ni!”, Not Dead Fred, Finnish Fisch Schlappers, the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, and the legendarily tenacious Black Knight. The show is helmed by director/producer Edna Widenmaier, musical director Phil Newns, and choreographer Lorraine Blake.
This is the fifth musical in five years for Grade 12 Bontkes, and she gets to showcase her vocal talents in her first starring role as the diva Lady of the Lake. It is the third musical in four years at Brentwood for Napier-Ganley, who had a big role in last year’s production of West Side Story.
Spamalot is a departure from past Brentwood shows, they agree, and the entire cast has loved getting the show ready.
“It’s so comedic,” Bontkes says. “It’s bright and lively.”
Even compared to Mary Poppins, which Bontkes performed in three years ago, the show lacks seriousness.
“It was similar,” Bontkes acknowledges. “But the humour makes a difference.”
It’s definitely more lighthearted than the Romeo and Juliet-inspired West Side Story, and the cast has embraced that.
“This is a lot more fun, not having to be so serious,” Napier-Ganley says. “We’ve really enjoyed this one.”
The performers had passing familiarity with Monty Python prior to being cast in Spamalot. Napier-Ganley had seen the original Holy Grail movie once, and Bontkes says her family had talked about the beloved comedy troupe.
In preparation for the show, the actors watched the movie again, and talked with cast members, some of whom were more obsessed with Monty Python than others.
“One cast member is really familiar with it,” Bontkes notes. “He gushes about it all the time.”
They also watched other productions of Spamalot online. But there are some notable differences between Brentwood’s show and the productions put on by adult theatre groups.
“For one, we’re all teenagers,” Napier-Ganley says, stroking a beard that he evidently didn’t grow. “I feel like the grey hair and facial hair is a little harder to come by.”
Obviously dedicated performers, Bontkes and Napier-Ganley both love all aspects of musical theatre.
“You can’t get a feeling like performing anywhere else,” Bontkes says. “There’s a community aspect of it, and the friendships you make are unmatchable; they’re the best in the world.”
Napier-Ganley is involved in many sports at Brentwood, but still finds things in theatre that he doesn’t get through soccer, basketball or rugby.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends,” he says. “I’ve always been more of a group kind of guy. I like the team aspect of performing. You don’t bond with people the same in other things as you do in musical theatre.”
Spamalot, Bontkes says, will be a “Mill Bay highlight,” although she acknowledges that there are “vulgar” aspects to it that some audience members may need to brace themselves for.
“It will be a lot of fun,” Napier-Ganley adds. “But you have to be ready for anything.”
Spamalot runs Feb. 26-29 at Brentwood’s T. Gil Bunch Centre for the Performing Arts. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $25 and are available a theatre.brentwood.bc.ca