Christian Slater, Craig Robinson, and Warwick Davis Find Monty Python's Grail in Spamalot
The film and TV favorites are tapping into their hidden musical-theater side to star in the Hollywood Bowl production of the Tony-winning Broadway show.
Christian Slater (Heathers, True Romance), Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine), and Warwick Davis (the Harry Potter series) are three names you don't typically associate with musicals. But lucky audience members will see this notable trio like they've never seen them before: singing and dancing (often at the same time) in the upcoming Hollywood Bowl production of the Tony-winning Monty Python's Spamalot, running July 31-August 2 in Los Angeles.
Robinson, also known for his nine-season run as warehouse foreman Darryl on The Office, leads the cast of the "loving" rip-off of the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the role of King Arthur. Davis (star and creator of the series Life's Too Short) and film hunk Slater costar as Sir Galahad and the coconut-clicking servant Patsy, respectively. They join an ensemble made up of several Broadway favorites including Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Rick Holmes (The Visit), and three-time Tony nominee Kevin Chamberlin (Seussical), as well as Spamalot's renowned creator, original Python member Eric Idle.
On a break from a recent rehearsal, Slater, Robinson, and Davis discussed their Python fandom, musical aspirations, and excitement over working with a legend like Idle.
Are you secretly a song-and-dance man?
Warwick Davis: Not particularly, no. I kind of don't know what I'm doing here, to be honest. [laughs]
Craig Robinson: [I'm a] singer. I can dance, but I don't normally do choreographed moves. That's the biggest challenge: the dance numbers.
Warwick: As an actor, your wiring to your feet isn't quite the same as it is for a dancer. Trying to translate what the choreographer is saying to make my feet do the same thing is a challenge. And you have to sing at the same time!
Christian Slater: I grew up in New York, so musical theater is part of my background. I did The Music Man with Dick Van Dyke, Merlin with Doug Henning, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. So it is part of my DNA, for sure, but to get the opportunity to do something like this is absolutely thrilling.
How did you land these roles?
Craig: My agent called and said, "They want to offer you the role of King Arthur in Spamalot." I said, "Are you sure they have the right person?" [laughs] I was in shock. It's an honor. I mean…It's a role with Monty Python! Forget about it! I couldn't say no. I tried. It was like n-n-n-n-n-n-YES!
Christian: My agent told me about it and asked if I would be interested. He sent me a little clip from the show. I want to find [projects] that scare the heck out of me, and this does fit right into that category.
Warwick: I'm a four-week veteran of Spamalot from the West End, but it was a couple of years ago. Eric asked me [to do this production], so I must have done something right in London. It's interesting now. Although this production features the same words and lyrics, staging-wise it's quite different. Some of it comes back to you, but then you have to overwrite that with the new stuff. The choreography and numbers are much bigger; much more "Broadway."
Describe the extent of your Monty Python fandom. How many times have you seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
Craig: It's one of my favorites…The iconic scenes just play in your head. Being a comedian, I love that sense of humor and the respect they have for silliness. Tapping into that has been remarkable.
Christian: My mother got me a bootleg audiotape of one of their bits, and it was Spam. I was probably about eight years old and it made me laugh. I remember just listening to it over and over again until I wore that tape out. I couldn't stop laughing. Some of the scenes I get to do in Spamalot are lifted from Holy Grail, so I'm literally imitating [Python original] Michael Palin.
Warwick, is it intimidating to perform the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in front of Eric Idle, who wrote and sang it originally?
Warwick: It's quite daunting to perform that song with him around. You feel the weight of that. Everybody knows that number. But it's a beautiful song and it's an anthem. I'm looking forward to the atmosphere in the Bowl when we do it.
As you are primarily film actors, what has been the best part of this theatrical experience?
Warwick: Working with everybody. It's a hugely talented team onstage, but [it's] also the creators behind all of this. All of those people, even to the wardrobe departments, they're so good at what they do. You have to be to put on a show like this in less than two weeks. It takes some doing.
Christian: To [work with] Eric Idle, this guy I have truly idolized, and to get the opportunity to go back and review The Holy Grail again? [It's] completely surreal.
Craig: Getting to work with people and see how they come together for this. It's a beautiful, silly love affair.