‘Spamalot’ aims for Monty Python wackiness at Theatre of Western Springs

Silliness will reign when the High School Repertory Company of the Children’s Theatre of Western Springs performs “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” a skewed takeoff on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Thirty-one teens were given less than three weeks to rehearse this hilarious musical based on the film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Director Tripp Burton is confident his cast is up to the task.

“It’s a show that I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Burton said. “I looked around and we had a lot of people who were not only really strong but really funny. It seemed like the right show at the right time.”

Burton never shies away from a challenge. Last year, he staged a highly successful “Rent” with the high schoolers.

In terms of creating the play’s environment, the director is eschewing elaborate Broadway-type sets in favor of going back to the mood of the source movie. “One of the things that I always loved about ‘Holy Grail’ was that the whole thing looked like six idiots made it in their backyard and there’s so much humor that comes out of that,” Burton said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to go back to.”

Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Jackson of Western Springs, who has performed at the Theatre of Western Springs for nine years, plays King Arthur. “Arthur takes himself too seriously,” Jackson said. “He’s kind of wacky but he doesn’t know it.”

It still amuses Jackson that his character sometimes spontaneously bursts into song. “My favorite moment is when all of a sudden these cheerleaders, the Lakers Girls, come out,” the actor said.

Johnson, who will major in musical theater at Columbia College in the fall, saw the source movie a few times when he was a child. “When I found out I was doing this, I had to go right back to the movie and watch these famous scenes again,” he said. Johnson also listened to the sound track to become familiar with the music.

“Other than that,” he said, “I jumped right into it with full curiosity and enthusiasm, and hoped for the best.”

Colin Ashburn, a 17-year-old La Grange resident and 10-year Theatre of Western Springs veteran, plays Sir Robin. “He loves Broadway musicals but he’s extremely scared of actual fighting,” Ashburn said. “He just wants to do singing and dancing — which is also part of being a knight.” In the world of “Spamalot,” that is.

There is even a song about Sir Robin’s obsession, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” “It’s an extravagant song that comes out of nowhere,” the actor noted.

Ashburn particularly enjoys a scene in which the cast sings about “Brave Sir Robin,” while he runs away. “He also has an accident in his pants,” the actor related.

Ashburn, who estimated he has seen the source film twenty times, said of his Sir Robin role, “I’m trying to make him not the smartest character. It’s fun to make someone kind of crazy.”

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"Monty Python’s Spamalot"

High School Repertory Company, Theatre of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave., Western Springs

7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 25-27

$15

(708) 246-4043; www.theatreofwesternsprings.com

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