‘Spamalot’ debuts on center stage

Doug Bechtel is a veteran theatre director, but he hasn’t produced something quite like Monty Python’s “Spamalot.”

“I’ve directed 100 plays and I’ve never done a musical,” said Bechtel. “It is challenging and contemporary and will bring in younger people. It is a great spectacle of singing, dancing, music and color. This is not going to be the last musical I do.”

Orcas Center has been planning the production for more than a year. It has a cast of 25 islanders who range in age from teen to mid-70s. The play will run March 16-18 and March 23-25 at 7:30 p.m. on the main stage. There will be a reception following the opening night production. Tickets are $17, $13 for students and $2 off for center members at www.orcascenter.org or 376-ACT1. There are $5 subsidized tickets available at the box office.

Parental discretion is advised as there is some adult language.

The musical comedy adapted from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is an irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend and the mythic search for the grail. The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004-2005 season.

Bechtel last directed a show at Orcas Center 10 years ago. Since then, he’s led the Actors Theatre at the Grange.

“At the Grange, I’m a one-man show,” he said. “I do the sets, the lights, everything. With ‘Spamalot’ we have 25 actors and a crew of 40 including 11 musicians, five working on sets and six sewing costumes.”

Bechtel has been aided by music director Jim Shaffer-Bauck, choreographer Suzie Fraser, stage manager Lynda Sanders, costume designer Kathy Walsh, set designer Dan Walker, prop master Thelma McTavish and dozens of volunteers who have been making set pieces, sewing, painting and working backstage.

Frank Michels, who plays King Arthur, has worked with Bechtel on productions at the Grange.

“Doug told me: you are the man for the job. I need someone who can do a mature, male role but also has the ability to be absolutely ridiculous,” said Michels. “I’m searching for the next truth inside of myself but at the same time I know it’s encrusted in farce. The grail for me is bringing the fruit of comedy to as many people as I can. It’s a great challenge for me and a great experience.”

Holly King brings her soprano voice as the Lady of the Lake.

“She is a true diva, and unfortunately, it feels very natural to me,” laughed King. “The cast has so many newbies, and everyone has each other’s back. I’ve learned so much from them, including the willingness to screw up on stage and move on.”

Michaels says a beautiful thing about the production is that “it’s not just about Arthur and the Lady of the Lake. There are so many stars and so many moments to shine. It makes my heart sing.”

The cast has been rehearsing since October, and the past month has been spent on character development.

“Theatre is about the chance to work with the actors,” said Bechtel. “The whole cast is great. They all bring different skills. It’s about having local people up there doing what they love.”

Cast and crew list

Frank Michels: King Arthur

Holly King: Lady of the Lake

Chris Dalla Santa: Patsy

Aaimee Johnson: Sir Bedevere, Black Knight, Concorde

Indy Zoeller: Man in castle, Sir Robin

Joe Andrews: Dennis, Sir Galahad, Herbert

Jared Larson: Sir Lancelot

Melinda Milligan: Laker Girl, Can-Can Dancer, YMCA Dancer

Suzanne Gropper: Laker Girl, Can-Can Dancer, Tim

Michele Griskey: Laker Girl, Fred, Can-Can Dancer

Anne Marie Schultz: Laker Girl, Can-Can Dancer

Liz Doane: Laker Girl, Can-Can Dancer

Margo Van Gelder: Laker Girl, Knight of Ni, Guard, Monk, Chorus

Audrey Neddermann: Laker Girl, French Taunter, Knight of Ni, Guard

Evan Erskine: French Taunter, Chorus

Bella Schermerhorn: Laker Girl, French Baker, Puppeteer, Monk, Chorus

Tom Fiscus: Man in castle, Dancing Nun, French Mime, Sir Bors, YMCA Dancer, Chorus

Carl Berger: French Leader, Dancing Monk, Minstrel, Chorus

Paul Carrick: Sir Not Appearing, Minstrel, Brother Maynard, Chorus

Tony Lee: Mayor, Mrs. Galahad, French Taunter, Herbert’s Father

Mandi Johnson: French Painter, Minstrel, YMCA Dancer, Monk, Chorus

Lisa Spesard: French Maid, Historian, Minstrel, Chorus

Brita Brahce: Monk, Girl with Wagon, Monk with hand grenade

Maura O’Neill: Recorded voice of God

Crew

Doug Bechtel: Director

Jim Schaffer-Bauck: Musical Director

Suzy Fraser: Choreographer

Lynda Sanders: Stage Manager

Deborah Sparks: Producer

Keith Light: Assistant Producer

Kathy Walsh: Costume designer

Regina Zwilling: Deck Manager

Thelma McTavish, Paula Capitano: Props

Dan Walker, Doug Bechtel, Fred Vinson, Dave Roseberry, Greg Books, Frank Michels, David Dinsmore, Vince Monaco, Paula Capitano, Thelma McTavish: Set and Prop Construction

Lighting Design: Lisa Steckley, Phil Burbo

Sound Design: Jeff Horton

Costume sewing: Pat Ayers, Vanessa Lamb, Barbara Bentley, Liz Doane