Well known for its Shakespeare productions and dramas, Titchfield Festival Theatre is dipping its toes into the all-singing, all-dancing world of the musical for the first time.
And for their musical debut they’ve gone with Spamalot, the riotous show ‘lovingly ripped off’ of the 1975 film Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
It’s been a big undertaking for the cast and crew, particularly as it comes as the end of the troupe’s Summer of Shakespeare season.
Richard Hackett is normally found directing for TFT, the last show he helmed for them was The Thrill of Love. But this time out he has been helping out on the production side: ‘We don’t normally have a producer, but because we’ve never done a musical before we thought we should have someone to help the director out.
‘We’ve brought in a musical director called Nick Blunn, he’s helped us out a lot on the musical side, but I don’t have any experience on that side of things, I’ve mostly done straight plays.’
Branching out into musicals is apparently something they’ve been considering for a while at TFT.
‘We needed to extend our range a bit,’ says Richard. ‘We’ve got a newly refurbished theatre and this is a good way of launching it with something big and spectacular.
‘We knew it was funny, we know a lot of people are aware of it because of the Monty Python connection and we thought it would be a crowd-pleaser – which was the main reason we chose it. It was our director, Rob King’s choice. I’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail quite a few times, but never the musical.’
Richard does, however, make a cameo appearance, of sorts.
‘I do make an appearance in the show, but on video – the historian who comes on at the beginning, we’ve done it as a TV-historian kind of thing.’
With Ron Long as King Arthur and Emma Jeans as The Lady of The Lake, the rest of the cast double up in roles.
‘We’ve found some great singers, we’ve found some new people who weren’t part of the company but have joined because they could sing,’ says Richard. ‘I think it’s well cast. The Lady of the Lake is the most difficult role in the show, and we’ve got Emma, who was already part of the company in the role. She’s professionally trained and she’s going to be an absolutely stunning Lady of The Lake.’
Coming off of the back of a busy summer and people appearing in other shows, it’s proved testing in rehearsals.
‘Some of them were in other shows, so that’s already a difficulty when you’re rehearsing and people have suddenly disappeared to do another show.
‘We’ve had to work around that on occasion, but we’ve got everybody together now and they’re working well.
‘They’re a very close team and they’ve gelled really well.’
Titchfield Festival Theatre