For all those hopeless romantics, actors waiting tables and interns working 40-hour weeks without pay, there’s still hope out there: The dream is still alive.
Take James David Larson, for example. As a teen, the now-professional actor saw his first Broadway-caliber production.
“When I was 17, I went to see Wicked at the Pantages. It was the first Broadway show I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing that six or seven years later, I’m going back as a performer,” Larson said.
Larson returns to the Pantages to play Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert in a nationwide production of Spamalot. When speaking about his two alter egos, Larson harbored an air of secrecy.
“Not Dead Fred is the man who’s being taken to the death care, which comes around town — but he’s not dead yet. And Prince Herbert is a prince who’s trapped in a tower and just wants love,” he said. “In the show — well, you’ll just have to come to the show to find out what happens, I guess.”
Larson and the rest of the Spamalot cast will be back in town to wreak humorous havoc on audiences of all ages this week. Be warned: “Expect a great show and a lot of laughs. Expect to be part of the madness,” Larson said.
Though Spamalot is definitely packed with comedy and chaos, Larson noted that life on the road with a touring Broadway production is its own kind of madness.
“It’s a blast. We live out of hotels — I think its great. There’s something different every day,” Larson said. “Yeah, it’s not the easiest thing, but I think it’s a great experience in learning how to manage your time and keep sane when you’re in and out of different places all of the time.”
The 2012 Spamalot tour has been winding in and out of the United States, visiting places that a Broadway show wouldn’t generally expect to stop.
“It’s just a matter of getting to places where people have never been able to see the show before. It’s also special because [these] people haven’t seen the show and we’ve probably never been to these places. It’s a good experience for everyone,” Larson said.
So what kind of cities has the Monty Python-inspired spectacle been visiting?
One place is Key West, Fla., tiny and miles out in the ocean — a stark contrast to Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the nation.
The tour has proven to be a sweeping event as it crosses cultural and geographic boundaries in an attempt to include as many fans as possible.
And it’s not hard to find fans of Monty Python and Spamalot, for good reason.
“Spamalot, just looking at it, is one of the finest shows ever written. It has that outlandish Monty Python humor which is so fresh and speaks to all people,” Larson said.
Fans of Monty Python’s work who haven’t seen the Broadway production show need not worry. Larson added that the magic of the show lies in how seamlessly the writers incorporated the Monty Python everyone loves with live theater.
“The thing about this show is that it is based on Holy Grail, but it also takes on some of the conventions of musical theater,” Larson said. “It takes you into the world of theater instead of just the movie.”
And, for those hardcore Monty Python fans, Larson notes that the show incorporates skits and characters from an assortment of Monty Python works and not just Holy Grail.
“It’s a full-fledged Monty Python experience,” Larson said.
An experience, Larson adds, that is taken to another level through its translation from screen to stage as it becomes more immediate in a theatrical performance.
“You tell a joke and you’re immediately connected with the audience. It’s just kind of this instant bond that we have with each other — performers with the audience, audience with the performers,” he said. “It’s just a really special and secret thing, and that’s why live theater has lasted so long.”
The legacy of Broadway theater has been long and legendary, but the pressures of today’s sagging economy seem to be taking a toll on productions. But Larson remains optimistic.
“This is how it works. All these shows — 9 to 5, Shrek, Spamalot — they’re on tour. Yes, they leave Broadway, but they do have life post-production,” he said. “It’s always been the business of theater. Even yet, people are coming — even with the egregious amounts of money that they have to pay.”
Spamalot will be at the Pantages Theatre through March 4.