Quad City Music Guild to Return in June With “Monty Python’s Spamalot”
Eighteen months after staging their last full production, Quad City Music Guild will return in June, to perform a filmed version of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” with no in-person audience, to be streamed online three times.
Originally scheduled for June 2020 (and postponed with the entire season due to Covid), the original Music Guild cast and crew will return to record the fully-staged version, and stream it June 11-12, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. and June 13 at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices are yet to be determined; Guild already had sold over 500 tickets for last June’s show, including many season-ticket holders, board vice president Sheri Olson said Thursday. Patrons who had a 2020 season ticket package transferred to 2021 will automatically receive a link to view the production, as will patrons who already purchased individual tickets to this show.
They got the streaming rights from its licensing company, Theatrical Rights Worldwide. There were two “Spamalot” options available – a pared-down, more concert version, and the fully staged version Guild would have done anyway, Olson said.
The entire cast of over 20 (approved in February 2020) is all on board to do the show. “We’re thrilled about that,” she said. “So far, everybody from ‘Spamalot’ is on board. The rest of the season, we haven’t made any decisions about yet, but we’re just thrilled that we’re able to do at least this production at this time.”
Unfortunately, Music Guild was not able to produce a streamable version of “The Secret Garden” (which was to be done this April and canceled for a second time), nor are the other summer shows – “Mamma Mia!” and “Matilda” — available to be streamed, Olson said.
“We have to look at all different variables and options, looking at it month by month,” she said. “There are just so many variables at play.”
“We’re doing what we can to make those shows happen. We’ll have to wait and see,” Olson said.
For “Spamalot” actors – wearing masks and with no audience – it will be a starkly different experience, she noted. “When you’re on stage, you feed off that audience feedback at times, so I think it will be a very different
experience for them, but we’re excited everyone’s on board.
“Like most people, we’re excited to get back to doing what we love to do,” Olson said.
The board hasn’t decided what to do about the July and August shows, while the directing staffs have been keeping in touch with their casts.
“What we want more than anything is to be able to put up the rest of the season,” Olson said, noting state of Illinois guidelines currently restrict indoor theaters to 50-person maximum audiences. The Prospect Park theater, 1584 34th Ave., Moline, seats 535 people. “It’s such a weird time,” she said.
The show will be pre-recorded, and using pre-recorded instrumental tracks (which also is new for Guild).
“It’s sort of sad. One of Music Guild’s identifying features is often we have a live orchestra,” Olson said. “With instruments requiring wind and air and breathing, in such a tight space for the orchestra to sit, logistically it would be very challenging to be safe and social distanced in our orchestra pit.”
“I think it will also be simpler for the videographer to record,” she said. “It will be a more seamless and cleaner sound. It’s going to be sad. We all love our live music.”
“It’s another way that we’re able to do this show, for our cast and crew and directing staff, and organization in a safe way,” Olson said. Rehearsals will start in April and they’ll likely record in early June.
If you do not have streaming capabilities, you can contact Music Guild at 309-762-6610 for a refund or voucher for this portion of your ticket package. Streaming views will also be available for anyone to purchase as the production dates get closer.
Lovingly ripped off from the classic 1975 film comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Featuring a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people, the 2005 Broadway production (starring Tim Curry and directed by Mike Nichols) won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was followed by two successful West End runs.
Dream come true for director
Music Guild’s “Spamalot” will be directed by Mike Turczynski, music directed by Callen Sederquist, choreographed by Sara Laufer, and
feature Brant Peitersen as King Arthur, Rachel Vickers as The Lady of the Lake, Jake Walker as Sir Lancelot, Andy Sederquist as Sir Robin, T. J. Green as Dennis Galahad, Ian Heaton as Sir Bedevere, Benjamin Graham as Patsy, and Max Robnett as Historian, Not Dead/Fred, and Prince Herbert.
Turczynski – who last directed “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Music Guild in March 2019 – said Friday that it’s a dream come true to get to do this show, even during a pandemic with no audiences.
“This show is on a bucket list for many people, me included,” he said. “I grew up with Monty Python. My dad was one of those guys who loved watching it. I was one who brought it to my group of friends – ‘Life of Brian’ and ‘Holy Grail’; were on a consistent loop in our basements. We could quote just about anything from the show.”
It was relatively easy to encourage everyone in the 2020 cast and crew to come back now. “I thought for sure we were going to lose a couple people,” Turczynski said Friday. “Every single one of them said they’re going to come back, and wanted to be part of it.”
“We’re going to do it with whole masks at all times, staging it in the most socially distanced way possible,” he said. “With 20 to 30 people on it, it can get tight. We’re looking at numbers to where we can cut down the amount of people on stage.
“We’re not going to cause anyone to feel unsafe, be unsafe in any way,” he said. “With the with magic of it being on film, we can make it look closer than it is.”
They will use a film production company out of Peoria that has done a lot of stuff with theaters there, Turczynski said. He’s not sure what kind of masks the performers will use.
Most clear masks, the “sound quality is absolutely atrocious,” he said. “It’s going to be a balance of being able to see them, making a good cohesive product. As the director, with a comedy, we need to see faces, we need to see expressions, especially in Monty Python. So much is about those bits, we want the best way to make sue vocal quality is to our standards and that we can see the acting.”
Turczynski has been doing sound this week for the new Augustana production of “Into the Woods,” and they started with clear masks, with most students wearing full cloth masks and some the roomier singer’s masks.
“The technology is there; it’s finding what works best for people,” he said, noting they’ll start “Spamalot” rehearsals earlier than in normal times – doing nine weeks total, compared to a typical six to seven weeks.
He preferred doing the full staged version compared to a slimmer concert version, which is an abridged 90 minutes, and not fully staged. Turczynski also prefers doing a recorded version to livestreaming in a theater of just 50 people.
“In my opinion, 50 people in Music Guild is cavernous. It would be, especially playing a comedy, you rely on the energy of an audience so
much,” he said. “These type of shows, I’d hate again to have people missing something, and with all the safety protocols that need to be followed — cleaning, sanitizing – Music Guild being a completely volunteer organization, that’s putting a lot of stress on people doing so much to make things run.”
“It’s much easier to kind of do it the safest way we know how, without putting too much pressure on the year this organization is having,” he said. It’s also a plus to have it online available to the most people possible,’
“We technically have a limitless audience,” Turczynski said. “We have as many that we can sell to. We have the ability, grandmas and grandpas and everybody across the country can see the show, they don’t have to worry about traveling. They can support the organization, see the show from the comfort from their home.”
He’s been an actor in two streaming shows from Rock Island – last fall’s “Lonely Planet,” filmed with Anthony Natarelli (in his apartment), and this month’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” in which he and Natarelli were in an eight-person cast at The Speakeasy (that’s still available to stream through Sunday at www.showtix4u.com/events/17497).
“To some extent, the challenges, the mistakes that were made, every time, we got better at it,” Turczynski said of filming and streaming. “We were learning along with everyone else. I feel comfortable taking on what is the biggest show, the logistics of that.
“It’s a lot of planning, it’s a fun challenge,” he said of “Spamalot.” “I’m excited to bring it to life.”
He’s also happy to get a jump start on filming “Spamalot,” as its Broadway producers recently announced plans for a major motion picture version. The movie musical adaptation of the Tony winner is moving to Paramount Pictures from Fox, and producers hope to find a cast and start production by the end of the year, according to Playbill.
As previously announced, Casey Nicholaw, who choreographed the original production, will direct. As with the musical, Eric Idle (an original Monty Python member) has penned the screenplay with songs written by Idle and John DuPrez.
Husband and wife thrilled to be back
Music director Callen Sederquist is also super excited to come back to Prospect Park, where she’s shared many shows with her husband, Andy.
“Knowing that we can make it happen in this capacity is a feat, really,” she said Thursday night of “Spamalot.” “It’s bright, happy news.”
Sederquist would like to have the singer’s masks at least for rehearsals, which give people more room to project within the mask. She used them last summer with Nova Singers and there are many different models of masks.
“Just not breathing in the mask, so you don’t take a huge breath and suck in all that fabric,” Sederquist said.
At the beginning, she’ll rehearse with the cast in smaller groups. “Mike and I have personally taken precautions and taken the pandemic very seriously,” she said. “We’ve played it really safe since the beginning. We both were of the mindset, if we’re not masked and not socially distanced, this isn’t gonna work and it’s not safe if we’re not gonna play by those rules.”
“It is strenuous to sing with masks on, and it is gonna be strenuous to dance with masks on, especially when you’re farther apart than you’re used to,” Sederquist said. “We’re going to rely on the stellar cast that we’re
able to work with, to challenge them to have as much of their stuff down when they get to rehearsal as they can.”
“We’ve done everything we can to reassure them that their safety and our safety is the most important here, even beyond the show,” she said. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make both of those things happen simultaneously.”
If this had to be done six months ago, more people probably would pass on doing it, but now that it’s been almost a year since the pandemic shutdown began, it’s different, Sederquist said. “Maybe I’d like to do something with my time.”
“We’re very fortunate,” she said. “I think ‘Spamalot’ is odd, the way it’s written. It’s goofy and off the wall and farcical. I think that if there was a show we had to do, pre-recorded during a pandemic, I think ‘Spamalot’ is a good one.”
“It’s just so silly; we need that,” Sederquist said, noting it’ll be strange to do it in an empty theater.
“It’s gonna be weird to be in a pit all by myself, too,” she said of using tracks (a common practice at Circa ’21 and the Spotlight Theatre). “Hopefully we can get some volunteers to come in and laugh at the appropriate times.”
Her husband Andy is looking forward to playing Sir Robin, and a rare show that they both won’t be together on stage or playing in the pit.
“He’s been really excited. This is a show, for a really long time that he had his sights set on,” Sederquist said. “He auditioned his face off; got one of the parts he was really interested in. He’s somebody who’s also by nature of his job (a structural engineer), his ability to lay low and he’s played it very safe. He also is feeling the effects of the whole year without performing and he’s really looking forward to this.
“I’m looking forward to watching my partner on stage after a long time of not,” she said.
The couple got to perform in the recent Circa ’21 “Let’s Fall in Love” cabaret, singing a duet from “Urinetown,” for which they were on stage together at Guild in 2015. They last played trumpet in the orchestra for Guild’s “Sister Act” in 2019.
The last show Callen and Andy were on stage together was Guild’s “Shrek” (2018) – she was Gingerbread Man and he was Pinocchio.
“We’ve done some silly shows, and we’ve also done ‘West Side Story,’ which is the opposite of a silly show,” Callen said of that 2017 Guild production, where she played Maria and Andy was Riff. “I think we work together well in silliness.”
“It’ll be weird. It will be very lonely in that pit,” Sederquist said. “I’m encouraged by all the people around me.”
“It’ll be a learning curve for sure – we’ve got a good staff, a good cast and we’ll make something happen,” she said.
Sederquist – who teaches music at Sherrard Junior and Senior High (all students in person) — got her second dose of the Covid vaccine on Feb. 19.
“I felt significantly better after my first dose and the second dose was the cherry on top,” she said. “It really put me much more at ease – I wasn’t necessarily worried for myself, just dreading the possibility I could potentially pass it on. I’m feeling much better about not having a lot of chance doing that.”
First-time online cabaret in April
Due to ongoing Covid safety protocols and continuing limitations on audience size, the QCMG board announced last month it would cancel the rescheduled April 2021 show. “The Secret Garden” was two weeks away from a March 27, 2020 opening when the board first chose to cancel last March, and later shelved its entire 2020 season for the first time since it has performed in Moline’s Prospect Park in 1949.
Instead, the nonprofit is replacing “The Secret Garden” with a streamed performance, “On With the Show: A QCMG Cabaret” – to be shown during the original “Secret Garden” dates, April 9-11 and April 16-18. Filmed from the Guild stage, the online production will feature the talents of some “Secret Garden” cast members, among other Guilders.
The plan is for the show to include 10 vocal selections (filmed separately) highlighting QCMG’s history — interspersed with photos and stories from QCMG past and present.
The April cabaret to be streamed also is new for Music Guild. If they’re not able to put on the other summer shows with audiences, they may do more online cabarets, Olson said.
The spring hour-long cabaret includes several original “Secret Garden” cast members – Taylor Bley, Kevin Snell, Emma Tully, Mark McGinn, and the two kids, Shay Schehl and Jordan Dodd, as well as set designer Luke Vermeire. Olson and Guild board president Jen Sondgeroth will sing the duet “Sisters” from “White Christmas.”
Ironically, there will be no “Secret Garden” songs performed as part of the cabaret, since that score doesn’t fall under the ASCAP license Music Guild has to perform at the theater. “It’s unfortunate; it would have been nice to have one or two songs from that production,” Olson said.
Guild volunteers have been working hard in the past year to clean and paint the theater, she said. “They’ve been doing an amazing job,” she said, noting that’s been led by Kevin Pieper, Harold Truitt and Pami Triebel. “They’ve been tirelessly working out there.”
“It’ll be exciting to get energy back into that theater,” Olson said.
For more information on Guild, visit www.qcmusicguild.com.