Ham and Jam and SPAMalot
Monty Python does Popejoy
By Amy Dalness
SPAM has acquired many meanings in the Digital Age. SPAM is, of course, a processed meat product made with spiced pork product, that’s canned and often served fried with eggs. It’s also the bane of e-mail inboxes everywhere, clogging the information highway with pharmaceutical advertisements and nudie pics. And it's a Tony Award-winning music. How's that for the meat of champions?
Monty Python's SPAMalot, "lovingly ripped-off" from the smash hit feature film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, comes to Popejoy this Tuesday, June 10, as part of Popejoy’s Broadway in New Mexico series. The U.S. tour of SPAMalot brings more than classic Monty Python one-liners and catapulted cows; it's seasoned with award-winning direction (Oscar- and Tony Award-winner Mike Nichols) and talent (including Broadway star Gary Beach) and is the brainchild of original-Python Eric Idle and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life composer John Du Prez.
Christopher Gurr, who plays multiple roles in SPAMalot, including Sir Bedevere, drove from the mountains of Kentucky to Chicago when he heard about the open auditions for SPAMalot's U.S. tour. "They're asking for middle-aged guys who can do British accents and silly things and it sounds like they're taking about me," he says. "So I thought, I'll go and find out."
Being a Monty Python line-repeater in his childhood and a student of musical theater, Gurr says he jumped at the opportunity to work on SPAMalot. When he was cast, it was like getting his dream job, he says. "Eric Idle is involved with the project; I actually get to be in the room with a Python—it's a pretty stunning possibility," Gurr says. "To get to be in the room with Mike Nichols, one of those legendary directors on the planet, is a pretty big thing." And seeing the continental U.S. on someone else's dime isn't a bad perk, he adds.
Gurr says SPAMalot has verbatim elements from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, including the taunting Frenchmen and killer bunny, and pulls in other material from "Flying Circus" and Life of Brian—a hodgepodge of classic Python moments, if you will. But even with all the ridiculous humor and slapstick, Gurr says his classic Shakespearean training comes in handy. "The underpinning of a lot of Python comedy ... is based on the fact that all those guys were incredibly well-educated and classically educated—Oxford and Cambridge kind of educated," Gurr says. "As silly and as absurd as that comedy is, it really is based on a lot of classic literature." That depth makes it possible to perform SPAMalot over and over, he says. "Slapstick in of itself is nothing, it's just whipped cream, and you can't live on that."
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