By PAM HARBAUGH
Nothing succeeds like success.
Certainly, three of Brevard’s community theaters are proving that right now with productions of shows that have been seen recently on other stages in the area.
Titusville Playhouse is in the middle of a roaring success with its production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Surfside Playhouse and Cocoa Village Playhouse are opening their productions on Friday of, respectively, “The Game’s Afoot” and “Spamalot.”
It’s not surprising that shows you’ve seen in one community theater find life again in another. Successful shows are both money in the bank for these cultural institutions and, they have the added bonus of attracting actors who have been aching to swing from the rafters or lope like a horse while clapping coconut halves.
And audiences flock to shows they like.
“THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME” closes Sunday and TPI’s box office is still receiving calls from patrons wanting tickets, some from those who want to see it again.
“Audiences are going crazy over the show,” said Titusville Playhouse director Steven Heron.
Just like the Henegar Center which nearly sold out its production of the musical last season, Titusville Playhouse’s production of “Hunchback” is selling out as well, with patrons singing the praises of the actors, the costumes, the set and even the lighting.
“We have a choir of 30 singers, a cast of 16 and the music soars at every performance,” Heron said. “The show is not your Disney film. It utilizes the amazing music but for the stage version, they went back to the book, so the show is darker.”
With a book by Pete Parnell (based on the Victor Hugo novel), music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the musical has, of sorts, an epic sweep of nobility. It concerns a wide array of themes, including love, lust, piousness and even ethnic cleansing.
Set in 15th century Paris, the action revolves around the deformed bell ringers, Quasimodo (Wesley Slade), who falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda (Lillie Eliza Thomas). In the story, the self-righteous archdeacon, Frollo (Arthur Rowan), and Captain Phoebus de Martin (Alec James) also fall in love with Esmeralda.
You will notice strains of “Les Miserables” in the show. That’s not surprising because Victor Hugo wrote the original novels upon which both musicals are based.
“I love this show,” Heron said. “It is dark but uplifting and reveals hope for humanity.”
“THE GAME’S AFOOT,” a popular Ken Ludwig farce, enjoyed a sold-out run at Melbourne Civic Theatre three seasons ago. Director Bryan Bergeron expects the same type of patron demand for tickets for his production, which opens Friday at Surfside Playhouse.
Ludwig, who also wrote huge hits like “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Crazy for You,” uses a team of actors to tell a Sherlock Holmes mystery. This is comic soufflé at its most theatrical, and funniest. Using the world of the theater as a backdrop, the story involves actors William Gillette (Rhett Pennell) as Holmes and Felix Geisel (Dusty Ray) as Professor Moriarty. Of course, all would not be right without a drama critic, Daria Chase (Liz Keimer).
Brevard Alix Efaw. Who normally does musicals, takes on the role of the acting company’s ingénue.
“I have absolutely loved being a part of this cast,” she said. “Everyone brings such energy and joy to rehearsal every day that it’s impossible not to get swept up in it. We all have so much fun playing together. And the cast is so funny. I find it nearly impossible to not laugh out loud myself, even in scenes we’ve done over and over again.”
To reveal anything more would be to spoil the fun surprises in store for the audience.
Bergeron has been aching to do this funny show, which was recommended to him by two people who saw the show at MCT.
“I’m influenced by performers talking it up,” he said. “And certainly when selecting productions for the year, it is a big consideration as to what shows the performers in the area want to perform in. Since most of the theaters compete for talent, you try to pick a show that you believe will draw strong performers.”
“SPALAMLOT” continues to dangle that crazy carrot in front of audiences, actors and playhouses. It opens tonight at Cocoa Village Playhouse. And doesn’t it surprise you that CVP is the last big venue in the area to mount a production of the popular show?
The goofy spoof on the Camelot legend has been seen on stage at the Henegar Center in March, 2014 and one month later at Titusville Playhouse. (Yes, some props and costumes were shared.) In October of 2017, Surfside Playhouse mounted its production of the show.
Now it comes alive at Cocoa Village Playhouse, arguable the venue with the deepest resources, both of financial and human form.
“It’s a departure for us because of the type of humor,” said Jason Crase, who is Prince Herbert in the show. “This type of humor is seen on our stage typically.”
Indeed. The last time CVP produced a show with the high goof-quotient as “Spamalot” was its uproarious production of “Young Frankenstein.”
Monty Python-er Eric Idle created “Spamalot.” Idle is credited with writing the show’s book, lyrics and, along with John Dupre, the music. If you’ve seen the sketch comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus which propelled John Cleese to popularity, or the 1975 movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” then you might understand the style and humor.
The plot concerns King Arthur (Rick Roach) and his nonsensical romp throughout the world in search of the sacred chalice. Said romp is made by horseback, but without benefit of an actual horse. Instead, King Arthur’s servant, Patsy (Chris Waterman), claps together two halves of a coconut shell to create the clip clop sound.
There is the Lady of the Lake (Sally Kalarovich) who sings ridiculous lyrics and Sir Lancelot (James Spiva) who learns more about himself than he expected.
The Knights of Ni demand a shrubbery before the King and his rag-tag band of knights are allowed to pass; a trio of French Taunters use their own flatulence to threaten the royal group; a blood thirsty bunny rabbit and the plague threaten; and a disarming sequence with the Black Knight.
“We have good fortune that most of the leading knights know ‘The Holy Grail’ movie backward and forward,” Crase said. “The audience will definitely feel and know that we’re connected to the original film. People who know the original film will not be disappointed. They will get the laughs that they came expecting.”
Indeed. Sometimes déjà vu all over again is a good thing. You get to take in a show you missed, or enjoy it one more time.
SIDE O’ GRITS:
HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME runs through April 29 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $23 to $29. Call 321-268-1125. visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com or click on their ad.
THE GAME’S AFOOT runs through May 6 at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road, Cocoa Beach. Tickets are $25 general, $22 seniors, military and students. A $1.75 ticket fee is applicable to each ticket. Call 321-783-3127, visit SurfsidePlayers.com or click on their ad.
SPAMALOT to May 13 at Cocoa Village Playhouse, 300 Brevard Ave., Cocoa. Tickets are $24 general, $22 seniors, active military and students and $16 for children. Call 321-636-5050, visit CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com or click on their ad.