Merely a flesh wound

The Black Knight must have salamander-like regenerative abilities or newfangled prosthetic limbs. Because after being hacked to bits on screen, he's crossing scimitars again with Arthur, King of the Britons, in Monty Python's Spamalot. For this waggish musical version of the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Eric Idle — you'll recall: Brit actor, comedian and member of the comedic troupe Monty Python — weaved his silly shtick into the lyrics for such actors as Bradley Dean to sing to the hilt. Dean, 36, plays the fallible Black Knight as well as other indelible characters, including the governmentally repressed peasant Dennis, the gallant Sir Galahad and the homophobic father of Prince Herbert. Dean studied acting at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in Pittsburgh and has starred in such theatrical productions as Jane Eyre, Evita, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Man of La Mancha. He actually understudied the role of the delusional Don Quixote in the latter production and as a result, should have no trouble gallivanting sans steed about the stage to the clippety-clop of coconuts in the phantasmagoric Spamalot.

Metro Times: How did you find out about Spamalot? What drew you to it?

Bradley Dean: I've always been a big Monty Python fan, and when I heard they were doing a Broadway show, I went to see it and thought it was the funniest thing I've ever seen on stage.

MT: What was your first impression of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Dean: The first Monty Python movie I saw was Life of Brian. I was home sick from school one day (I was 8 years old) and it came on TV. I remember thinking that it was a type of comedy I'd never seen before. It was sketch comedy, and I became a huge fan. As a boy I would always walk around singing "Bright Side of Life," which is a big showstopper in Spamalot, so things have come full circle.

MT: What has been your biggest challenge in preparing to play your roles?

Dean: There's been a lot of accent and dialect work. The show has been running for a year now, and it's always a challenge to keep it fresh and act like you're delivering lines effortlessly for the first time. You have to convince yourself that you've never said these lines before and you've never told these jokes. It's a great challenge for an actor.

MT: What have you learned from Spamalot co-creator, Eric Idle?

Dean: Eric Idle is about the sweetest guy you could ever meet. I was star-struck, but he's very down-to-earth. He has a way of giving you small [suggestions] that makes everything fall into place. He's a genius.

MT: What is the airspeed velocity of an Unladen Swallow?

Dean: African or European?

MT: Why does this silly tale work so well as a musical?

Dean: In The Holy Grail, they launch into the big "Camelot" number very effortlessly. We do it 12 more times in Spamalot. The humor lends itself to diving right into song and dance.

MT: Does Spamalot employ low-budget effects like using coconuts instead of horses?

Dean: We tend to gallop around the stage with coconuts a lot. But these coconuts actually cost more than the horses.

MT: How does the plot differ in the musical from the original film?

Dean: The Knights of Ni command King Arthur to set out on a quest to put on a Broadway musical.

MT: The film had its premiere in 1975; how is this story still drawing crowds today?

Dean: There are countless millions of Monty Python fans all over the world. It's fantastic to be a part of a hit like this because the seats are full every night. The brilliance of the show has made it stand up to the test of time.

MT: How do you think Detroit audiences will react to Spamalot?

Dean: They're going to adore it. When I acted in Evita, Detroit gave us some of the best houses we had, including the Fisher Theatre, which has a nice intimacy about it. The great thing about the show is you don't have to be a Monty Python fan to be taken away by how funny it is.


Monty Python's Spamalot runs Tuesday-Sunday, Dec. 12 - Jan. 6 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; 313-872-1000.

Chris Scribner is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]

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