|Tom Arwady (right) leads a band of minstrels serenading not-so-brave Sir Robin|
[PHOTO by David Reinke]
In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the movie upon which Spamalot is based, the six members of the Python troupe each played about six roles! So when Eric Idle wrote Spamalot, it is not surprising that the male leads each play multiple parts. As director of the Farmington Players production of Spamalot, I also tried to cast comedic actors who had the versatility to play many roles.
One such actor is Tom Arwady, a community theater chameleon who easily adapts to his surroundings. Tom has performed or directed at eight local community theaters, now counting the Barn. But Tom is no “gypsy” – a term for actors who bounce between theaters without ever lifting a hand to help backstage. In fact, upon being cast in Spamalot, Tom jumped right in to help with props, and even recruited his mother Janie Arwady to help sew costumes!
Tom describes his four Spamalot characters as follows: (1) Not Dead Fred: is “an elderly peasant with mud and shit all over him who lives in Plague Village. Lancelot tries to put him on the dead cart, but he's full of pep and piss and vinegar; and is not dead yet!” (2) French Guard is “the French Taunter's pompous buddy who also enjoys insulting the British. He is known for his extremely rude hand gestures.” (3) Head Minstrel to Sir Robin: “He is silly and happy. Probably likes to do community theatre. When he composes ballads about Robin, he either likes to insult him for his cowardice, OR is innocently trying to compliment Robin and is oblivious with how the lyrics are coming across.” and (4) Prince Herbert: “Herbert is a sensitive, sheltered young gay lad whose father is King of Swamp Castle. He is intimidated by his bullying father who gives him no love or support. Herbert loves to sing about his emotions, but his father suppresses his talent and makes him lose his confidence.”
Tom knows these characters intimately because this is the third time he has been in Spamalot, and the second time playing these exact roles. Tom says, “I enjoy making them four distinct personalities with different voices and mannerisms. But mostly, I like making the audience laugh. The challenges in playing these roles are the very high tenor notes Herbert has to sing, the athletic dancing for Fred, and balancing the grail on my hat for the dance as the Minstrel.”
Like many cast members, Tom is a big Monty Python fan, but he thinks Spamalot “is still very funny and entertaining even if you don't know Python movies or the TV show. It skewers musical theatre conventions, ethnic stereotypes, organized religions, politics, class struggles, and gender roles. It has hilarious word play and puns, double entendre, and lots of plain old silly nonsense!”
Tom lives in Harrison Township and has been an elementary school teacher for 20 years. He currently teaches 4th grade at Grosse Pointe Public Schools. In addition to community theatre, he enjoys pub trivia, karaoke, reading, hiking, traveling, and swing dancing. Tom says, “I've enjoyed getting to know the rest of the talented cast and creative, dedicated production staff and crew. I'm proud to be a new member at Farmington Players and hope to return next season!”
Monty Python’s SPAMALOT has 12 performances at Farmington Players Barn Theater from April 28 – May 21. The show is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.