Music by: John Du Prez and Idle
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Featuring: Russ Bohard as King Arthur, Paul Araquistain as Patsy, Ray Mendonca as Sir Robin, Russell Ward as Sir Lancelot, Thomas Ignatius as Sir Galahad, Tracy Chaippone as Lady of the Lake, Lawrence-Michael Arias as Sir Bedevere, Steven Ennis as Herbert, Ron Lopez as Character Male, and Foster City Police Chief Matthew Martell as The Black Knight. The ensemble includes Pauli Amornkul, Jennifer Butler, Evelyn Chan, Alyson Chilton, Amanda Ross, Jennifer Young, Jason Hobart, Loren Gonzales, Aristotle Justice McDaniel and Jacob Marker
Directed by: Dan Demers
When: August 30-September 22, 2013. Extended through September 29, 2013
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City, California
Tickets:$23-$40. Call 650-349-6411 or visit hillbarntheatre.org
It's tempting to make jokes about the size of Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City. "Smaller than Bill Gates' living room." "The size of a British water closet." And so on.
But, two things: The Hillbarn stages successful huge shows there, such as "Ragtime" in 2012, with cast of 49. And, really, having 179 seats means it's not that small, anyway. There are plenty of other smaller theaters out there.
When the national tour of "Spamalot" came through San Jose, its huge sets were mounted in the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, which seats 2, 677.
So, we asked Dan Demers, who is directing "Spamalot" at Hillbarn, how he does it.
"Very carefully," he said, with a big laugh, during an August 13, 2013, phone call.
"We had conversations about it early on," he said. "Our space is unique and intimate, and want to use that to our advantage.
"I want the feeling, when the audience walks in, to be overwhelming, larger than life. We're building off stage, around the audience. As soon you walk in, you feel like you are in medieval times."
Demers, who is also Hillbarn's marketing and operations director, said as director of "Spamalot" he was lucky in who the Hillbarn hired as set designer, Kuo-Hao Lo.
"He is the ideal designer for 'Spamalot,'" Demers said. "he is using forced perspective for layers of castle units, all sorts of stuff."
Demers is a guy who has bounced around various Bay Area theater companies, as an adminstrator kind of guy, as an actor, as a director. For instance, he was Max Bialystock in "The Producers" at Hillbarn, and will play the role again starting in late October, for Woodside Community Theatre.
He joined the staff at Hillbarn in September of 2012, and loves it. "It's wonderful here," he said. "A really nurturing and positive environment. We're all working toward the same goal, to put on great theater."
One of the biggest challenges for this production of "Spamalot" a nutty musical by Eric Idle based on the nutty 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was finding enough men dancers.
"It's so hard to find dancing men on the Peninsula," said Demers. "It's an enigma. They just don't exist."
Still, he did find a few, and says he has assembled "The most dedicated, strong band of actors all the leads are really strong. They understand the comedy. They all get it. ... We get to really explore the show, add some new artistic stuff, bumping up the spoof."
One role, however, was easy to fill, that of The Black Knight, who challenges King Arthur, and wants to keep fighting, even after his arms and legs have been cut off. In most productions, he ends up impaled and hanging on a spike, still wanting to fight.
Matt Martell, the chief of police in Foster City, volunteered for the part.
"He's great!" said Demers. "He contacted us, said 'Monty Python is such a part of my life,' said he'd really love to do this. He's going to be delightful."
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org