Stephen F. Austin State University

News

'Spamalot' features fun, challenging score for directors, cast, orchestra

November 7, 2014 - Robbie Goodrich
"Spamalot" cast members rehearsing one of the numbers in the musical by Eric Idle, John Du Prez and Neil Innes are, from left, Bobby Britton, Stuart Neef, Keenan Chaisson, Heather Abbott, Daniel Miller, Adrian Lopez and Amy Miller-Martin.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -Are there enough orchestra lights for everyone in the pit? When will the piano be tuned? Can the cast sing that note while jumping? How will the offstage singers see the conductor? How many timpani will fit in the pit? How long does it take for the feet of God to lift off?

These are some of the questions spinning around in the mind of Dr. Stephen Lias, professor of composing at Stephen F. Austin State University and the music director of Monty Python's "Spamalot" to be presented by the SFA Schools of Theatre and Music.

"Spamalot," the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of the 1975 classic movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," takes the stage in W.M. Turner Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Nov. 18 through 22, with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee performance. Angela Bacarisse, professor of theatre at SFA, is director and choreographer for the musical by Eric Idle, John Du Prez and Neil Innes.

A seasoned director for many musical productions, Lias described such an undertaking as "an incredibly complex puzzle that requires a lot of people from different disciplines to all be working toward the same goal."

Prior to his work at SFA, Lias conducted the musicals "My Fair Lady," "Man of La Mancha," "Guys and Dolls" and "She Loves Me" at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Since his arrival at SFA in 2000, he has served as musical director for "Cabaret," "Follies," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Little Shop of Horrors."

"The thing I like best about the entire process is getting to work collaboratively with so many excellent colleagues in theatre and music," Lias said. "Although my domain is music, this intersects with things such as sets, lighting, costumes, sound reinforcement, props, etc."

"I could not have undertaken this project without such an amazing partner as Dr. Lias," Bacarisse said.

Lias has been involved in "Spamalot" "right from the beginning," he said, participating in auditions and attending every rehearsal with the cast.

"In addition, I'm also responsible for hiring and rehearsing the pit orchestra," Lias said. "The pit is made up mostly of students from the School of Music, but we are joined by three faculty members."

There are about 15 players covering all the standard parts of the orchestra - strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, piano and guitar.

Lias describes "Spamalot" as "a pastiche of many other Broadway musicals," making the score both very traditional, but also tongue-in-cheek.

"In many places there are musical clichés used to push the sound just a little over the top," he said. "It is a challenging score, but not as hard as many. I'd say it sits in the middle of the difficulty range for Broadway musicals. It is a very fun score to play and conduct!

"I really enjoy the big dance numbers the best," Lias said. "'You Won't Succeed on Broadway' and 'Knights of the Round Table' certainly give the orchestra a lot to do, and I'm sure they'll bring the house down."

Katy Rutherford, assistant director for "Spamalot," and Anna Goldberg, dramaturg for the production, will present an informative talk about the musical at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, in Griffith Gallery, which is located across the hallway from Turner Auditorium.

"Spamalot" is recommended for mature audiences. A content advisory is available at theatre.sfasu.edu.

"Spamalot" is a feature of the SFA College of Fine Arts' 2014-2015 University Series, "Connect," and is among the School of Theatre's Mainstage productions, which are sponsored in part by Tipton Ford Lincoln of Nacogdoches.

Tickets range from $7.50 to $20, with discounts available for seniors, SFA faculty/staff, students and youth. For tickets or more information, visit theatre.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.