WORTHINGTON - “Ladies, you’ve got to work those headdresses,” exhorted Eric Parrish, director of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College (MWCTC) Theatre Department’s production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
“You have the potential to be amazing, but you’ve got to sell it all the time.”
At each rehearsal this week, Parrish urged his 12-member student cast to maintain their energy at full wattage in order to guarantee non-stop entertainment for audiences at this weekend’s performances of “Spamalot.”
With presentations set for 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Parrish is banking on the unique appeal of Monty Python-type humor to fill the seats of MWCTC’s Fine Arts Theater all weekend long.
“We were excited to do something lighter and more humorous because in the last few years we’ve produced ‘Dracula,’ ‘Godspell’ and ‘Evita’ - a lot of heavy stuff, with a lot of ‘people’ getting killed,” said Parrish, a MWCTC music and theater instructor. “Spamalot” marks his 10th show at MWCTC.
“This is about as funny as it gets.”
Bianca Alvarez, a MWCTC sophomore who portrays the Lady of the Lake in “Spamalot,” concurs.
“Last fall I was Evita, and I died at the end,” she said. “It’s so nice that this is different; this musical is hilarious, and I don’t think there’s room for anyone to take a breath between laughs.”
Knowing he had several potential student cast and tech crew members who were “British humor types,” Parrish purposely selected “Spamalot” to cater to their tastes.
“They’ve really responded positively to it,” Parrish confirmed. “The show is well-suited for this particular group of kids.”
“Spamalot” is loosely based on the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and it’s “the Camelot story told with tons of British humor,” according to Parrish.
“It’s Monty Python, so all kinds of crazy things go on and there is adult humor,” cautioned Parrish. “I’ve been saying it’s kind of PG-13, so parents should use their own discretion about bringing younger children.”
With 175 light cues, an abundance of scenery, numerous costumes and a music track, Parrish says “Spamalot” is one of the most demanding shows he’s ever mounted, at least from a technical perspective.
“MWCTC freshmen Sebastian Licea and Scott Schnieder are in the sound/light booth, and they have a lot to do,” assured Parrish. “When you’re running a show like this, you need competent people involved, and they’re doing the job.”
Also assisting Parrish are costume coordinator Roxanne Hayenga, choreographer Sydney Place-Sallstrom and stage manager Paul Seifert.
“And this is probably one of the most diverse casts I’ve had,” said Parrish, noting how pleased he is with the talent that has stepped forward.
“Every year there’s somebody at MWCTC I don’t know about who shows up and wants a part, and I’m always impressed at what they’re capable of doing,” Parrish shared.
For instance, new to the MWCTC stage are Kevin Tran, Nate Owen and Christopher Lopez Gutierrez. Gutierrez came to Worthington from Puerto Rico as a baseball recruit, but he’s proving his mettle as a song-and-dance man, too.
Besides the veteran Alvarez, who has been in six musicals to date, “Spamalot” is graced with the experienced presence of D.J. Berger, a MWCTC sophomore with eight musicals on his resume, Braden DeSmith (Parrish calls DeSmith’s turn “hysterical”) and Sammy Vallego, who inhabited the role of Sebastian in the 2017 Worthington High School musical “The Little Mermaid” and portrays Sir Galahad this weekend.
“Every bit of ‘Spamalot’ is hilarious,” promised Berger, a comical King Arthur in this production. “There’s not a single scene that will go by without at least one outburst of laughter.
“Personally, my favorite scene is when King Arthur tries to recruit Sir Galahad and Galahad spews out a lengthy political rant with a large vocabulary. I’m very impressed that Sammy memorized it all and can recite it so quickly, which makes the scene even funnier.”
Berger says the humor is “right up our alley,” and assures that if patrons enjoy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or Mel Brooks movies, they’ll love “Spamalot.”
“It’s kind of crude humor at times but not really inappropriate,” explained Berger. “I’d like to think that diehard Monty Python fans will feel we’ve done this justice.”
Parrish says “Spamalot” includes “all the gimmicky things that make Monty Python what it is.” He also promises a surprise cameo, plus the short appearance of a “mysterious” MWCTC alum. Above all, Parrish hopes people will turn out to support his students and their interpretation of the show.
“I’m amazed at how much Mr. Parrish pulls out of us as actors to create these productions,” credited Alvarez. “I’ve loved having him as a director, and I’ve developed a real passion for musical theater; I hope to keep doing it for as long as possible.”
Added Berger, “I hope people will come to see what we’ve put together and have some good laughs.
“And if it snows Friday, the theater will be a great place to be inside and stay warm.”
The Minnesota West Community and Technical College Theatre Department presents “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the MWCTC Fine Arts Theater, Worthington campus. Tickets are available at the door a half hour prior to each show. “Spamalot” contains some adult humor and content.