Discover the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow with ‘Spamalot’

Spamalot actor Jaron Carlson takes a break on the set during rehearsal last week. (Photos by Stephanie Wonchala)

Fans of the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” have a chance to spam it up at UAA. The department of Theater and Dance is putting on the musical “Spamalot” from Nov. 16 through Dec. 9 at the Fine Arts Building Main Stage Theatre.

Spamalot” is a large production for UAA to put on, and its cast and crew stands at about 50 members. Both students and community members make up the workforce.

Tom Skore, production director and UAA theatre professor, started planning for “Spamalot” last year. The royalties for the production were between $3,600 and $4,000 to procure. The overall budget for the production, including costumes, lighting costs, scenery and other expenses is between $18,500 and $19,000.

“It’s an expensive show to produce. The settings aren’t that bad, but it has a lot of funny little things,” Skore said. “At some point (the script) will say, ‘A frog starts wheeling across the stage.’ So, you’ve gotta have somebody there. You have to build the frog costume. They’re on the stage for 10 seconds, and then they’re gone and you never see the frog again.”

“Spamalot,” and its parent movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” are British comedies that tell the story of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table and their quest to find the Holy Grail.

It also includes rude Frenchmen, knights who say “ni,” an enchanter named Tim and a rabbit with a nasty temper.

Costume designer Colleen Metzger approaches the Lady of the Lake, Paige Langit, while testing wardrobe. Director Tom Skore, scenic designer Daniel Carlgren and student worker Scottie Heverling look on.

“I grew up watching the movies, watching the ‘Flying Circus,’ and that sort of off the cuff, sometimes unrelated humor, is fantastic,” Paige Langit, who plays the Lady of the Lake, said. “It’s definitely comedy at its finest and silliest.”

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The production involves quite a bit of choreography as well, and the musical isn’t rooted in a specific style. The dance numbers are varied and, like the rest of the musical, very silly.

Getting the cast together to rehearse the choreography has been a challenge.

“When we first started the show, half the cast was performing in another show at UAA, so we kind of had to work around them,” Kristen Vierthaler, production choreographer and adjunct professor at UAA, said. “There’s so much dance in this show, and you have so few males trained as dancers in Alaska. … But boy do they (cast members) attack their choreography with enthusiasm.”

Not all the cast members have busy roles, however.

“I feel like a little bit of a slacker as Lady of the Lake compared to a lot of these cast members,” Langit said. “Some of them have multiple characters, multiple costume changes, multiple numbers that they’re having to memorize not only the words, but the choreography. … And here I am, I walk in, and I’m the diva and I sing and I leave.”

The traveling Broadway production of “Spamalot” was in Anchorage in April 2009, but Skore doesn’t think the recentness of the professional production will negatively affect interest in UAA’s show.

Theatre students Brian Sechrist, Micah Williams and Kyle Campbell combine efforts for set construction.

“The Broadway format and the PAC format, you’re seeing it in a huge theater. You’re well away from what’s going on. Our theater is very intimate, so the interaction with the audience is a lot closer,” Skore said.

Vierthaler agrees.

“It’s kind of like brownies,” she said. “You know when you eat brownies and they’re really good and it’s like, you can wait another two weeks and then you’re about ready for another pan of brownies.”

“Spamalot” will run at the Fine Arts Building Main Stage Theatre at 8 p.m. from Nov. 16 through Dec. 9 Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 for UAA students with valid ID and $20 for the general public. Bring a can of nonperishable food to the Fine Arts Box Office you when purchasing tickets to get the “spam rate,” a $3 ticket discount. One can per ticket limit, no substitutions for shrubberies.