"Spamalot"

Members of Mount Aloysius College Theatre Department, including (left to right) Dani Vella, Thomas McElhinny, Lucy Craig, David Bailey, Andy Auker and Anne Way, will stage “Spamalot” virtually March 4 through March 7, 2021.

The search for the Holy Grail never looked so funny.

Mount Aloysius College’s Theatre Department will present Monty Python’s musical comedy “Spamalot” virtually at 7:30 p.m. March 4 through 6, and 2 p.m. March 7. It will be exclusively streamed via BookTix Live.

The 90-minute, concert-style production, based on the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” tells the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their many hijinks while on the quest to find the Holy Grail. 

Director Nathan Magee said “Spamalot” was not the department’s first choice.

“We had settled on a different show, but over the summer when we were making these decisions, it was very clear that we had to do a show that had streaming rights for over the internet,” he said.

“Back in June, there was some optimism that we could have a live audience by now, clearly that didn’t materialize, but even then, I knew if things didn’t improve dramatically, we would have to be able to stream the show.”

The first option didn’t license streaming rights, leading the production team to go back to the drawing board.

“ ‘Spamalot’ has been on my radar for some time, and the licensing company sent out an email saying their entire catalog was open to streaming via the internet, making it super easy,” Magee said.

“At that point, we took a look at the catalog to see what show fit the best and I felt like ‘Spamalot’ was a show we could do and cast. And in the world we’re living in right now, I thought some Monty Python and some humor would be much needed for the students, for me and our audience.”

He said even though the jokes in the film were written more than 40 years ago, they still resonate today.

“I’ve heard these jokes hundreds of times and they’re still funny,” Magee said.

“These bits that the Monty Python crew came up with just work, and it’s one of the funniest films ever made.

“The musical is pretty faithful and takes most of the bits straight from the film and then adds a bunch of really silly and fun songs to it.

“I would say if you have ever seen ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ and enjoyed it, you’ll definitely enjoy this musical, and if you haven’t seen it, now is your chance.”

In addition, the production team and cast had to come up with innovative ways for the show to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The show was rewritten to be done concert-style and socially distanced,” Magee said.

“All of the actors on the stage will be masked the whole time.

“They are spread out across the stage, about 8 feet between them, and when they are in a scene, they come to the center of the stage, perform and then they go back to their chairs.”

He said all of the choreography is done at the actors’ chairs.

“They’re using their chairs – standing and sitting – and it’s clever ways to make it visually interesting to watch and to help tell the story,” Magee said.

He added that the music in the production is terrific.

“You can’t help but tap your toes and sing along with it because the songs are infectious and are just so much fun,” Magee said.

“This is not a serious or heavy show and that was by intent.”

The musical features a cast of 11 students made up of seasoned actors and newcomers.

“This is a fantastic cast, not only in talent, but in work ethic and their attitude,” Magee said.

“They hang out all the time during breaks, and always chatting, they just wanted an opportunity to be together and do something. They really are doing a great job and bringing it to life.”

He said the biggest challenge for actors is wearing specially designed singing masks while performing.

“They have to act with essentially missing half their face, so they really have to inhabit the characters in their bodies because they can’t rely on their faces like so many of them usually do,” Magee said. 

Senior Dani Vella, who plays the parts of Lancelot, the Mayor and a Knight of Ni, said she has been involved with theater since her sophomore year at Mount Aloysius College.

“I really thought this would be a challenge, but I wanted to do a show for my senior year and have that last hurrah with my friends and it was important for me to be a part of it,” the communications studies major said.

The Ebensburg resident said she went into the show with an open mind.

“The masks are the biggest difference and it’s a lot more work to show expression and to project a lot of volume when you’re singing, so that was something I was nervous about going into it,” Vella said.

“But it has been a wonderful experience, and the production team has been incredible and has overcome every challenge that we’ve faced.”

She said the cast is having a fun time working together.

“It’s going to be different because we’re not going to have an audience or that audience interaction that we’re used to,” Vella said.

“We will be performing for a camera, so we need to lift each other up on the stage and feed off of that.”

For viewers of the show, her hope is that people will get a little bit of theater that everyone has been missing over the past year.

“I really want them to enjoy the experience and have a good laugh,” Vella said.

Magee said although it’ll be a different viewing experience, he thinks people will enjoy the production.

“I hope people have a good time, and for 90 minutes, they can kick back and forget about the world for a little bit and get lost in the world of theater, which is one of the reasons we go to live theater,” he said.

“I hope it gives them joy and happiness. The key song of the show is ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,’ and is there a better message for right now with everything that’s going on?”

Tickets for the production are available at mtac.booktix.com.

A single viewer streampass is $6, and a family/group viewer streampass is available for $12.50.

Once tickets are purchased, a streampass will be sent to individuals with viewing instructions.

For more information, visit the Mount Aloysius College Theatre Department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheatreAtMac.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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