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Musical Mayhem

King Arthur( Casey Hennessy) and the Knights of the Very Very Round Table perform a scene in Grand Forks Central's production of "Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical." (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 3
The Lady of the Lake (Maia Jackson) and other members of the Grand Forks Central High School cast perform a scene in "Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical." (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 3
With a cast of 51 and a stage and technical crew of 10, Casey Hennessy plays the lead role of King Arthur and Maia Jackson takes the lead female role, Lady of the Lake, in the Grand Forks Central High School production of "Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical." (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 3

Auditions for the lively musical comedy, "Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical," drew a record number of Central High School students—78—for the show loaded with silly jokes and playful jabs at traditional musical theatre, said Paul Barta, who's directing the show.

The production opened Thursday and continues at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the school's auditorium.

Geoff Mercer is music director and built sets for the show.

"'Spamalot' fits the mold of the show Geoff and I are looking for," Barta said. "We lean toward entertaining, funny musicals."

The play offers the additional bonus of having "lots of leads and supporting parts," Barta said, "so there are lots of opportunities for lots of different kids."

With a cast of 51 and a stage and technical crew of 10, Casey Hennessy plays the leading role, King Arthur; Maia Jackson takes the lead female role, Lady of the Lake, and Adam Mastel is Sir Lancelot. All are seniors.

Presented by the school's Department of Fine Arts, "Spamalot," based on the 1975 classic film comedy, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

The original 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and received 14 Tony Award nominations.

The play, which detours from the more traditional versions of the legend, treats the audience to a continuous series of shenanigans and spoofs on "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera," Barta said.

An irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend, the play features a slew of beautiful dancing showgirls, as well as cows, killer rabbits and flatulent Frenchmen.

"We hope people who attend will have a great night of laughs, and will leave laughing," said Hennessy.

This is the 13th show Hennessy has performed in a Central High School production, he said.

It's the 20th show for Maia Jackson.

"I love being part of musicals at Central," she said. "This show is uplifting; it's upbeat with elements of comedy."

"I'm in my senior year," she said, "and this is a perfect way to finish off my experience at Central."

Her character, Lady of the Lake, is "the force behind the scenes who makes King Arthur the king," and helps him on his quest to find the Holy Grail, she said.

In the play, the Knights of the Round Table—a cadre of goof-offs—are called Knights of the Very Very Round Table.

Director Barta's interest in "Spamalot" goes back to when he first saw the play performed by a touring company a few years ago at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

He wasn't an avid Monty Python fan, he said, but as an audience member, "I laughed the entire time."

He thought it would be a good choice for Central's students, in part because the show hasn't been staged by schools or companies in this area, he said.

Python fans "will have a good with time it, but you don't have to be a Monty Python fan to enjoy it," he said.

Barta wasn't sure how today's teenagers would respond to a play that traces its roots back to a popular 1975 film.

The enthusiastic turnout for student auditions "was kind of surprising," he said, "because I don't think people know a lot about 'Spamalot.' "

Student interest may be due, in part, to the unusually large freshman class and the large freshman choir at Central this year, he said.

Whatever the reason, the fun-loving result will be evident to those who make time to see "Spamalot" this weekend, Barta said.

"We've had a great time with it."

If you go

What: Monty Python's Spamalot the Musical

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Grand Forks Central High School Auditorium

Tickets: $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. For reservations, call (701) 746-2411 or go online, www.spacompany.org

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