Quad-City Music Guild’s first complete musical in a year and a half, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” will be filmed from Moline’s Prospect Park theater Saturday and available to be streamed online June 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., and June 13 at 2 p.m.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Eric Idle, a Monty Python original, co-wrote “Spamalot,” based on the 1975 classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”:

Though the state of Illinois may lift all indoor capacity limits Friday, June 11 (compared to allowing theaters over 200 seats now to be at 25-percent capacity), the decision was made months ago for “Spamalot” not to have in-person performances.

“I felt pretty heavily we needed to lock ourselves into one direction, because I was making choices for the show that were only going to work in a streamable capacity,” director Mike Turczynski said Tuesday at the theater, 1584 34th Ave., Moline.

“There are some gags in the show that would only work on camera. There are some design choices, costumes, stuff like that, we knew we could take the extra time and fully set things up and make sure they would work.”

In one scene, the character Tim the Enchanter pops in various locations throughout, coming out of corners

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

This scene features Daniel Williams, left, Andy Sederquist and Brant Peitersen

here and there. “We would have to rethink the entire staging of the scene if we had a live audience,” Turczynski said.

The last live show done at Guild (with a 535-seat capacity) was “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in December 2019, and the summer 2020 season of “Spamalot,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Matilda” was postponed to this year due to Covid. Of the three, just the first was available to purchase rights to film and show online.

“It was a tough decision, but I’m really happy with the product we’ve created,” Turczynski said. “I think it’s really going to hold up well. We get to say we’re the one and hopefully only that ever does this out here at Music Guild.”

“I wanted to make sure we put out energy into making the best single product possible,” he said.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Guild’s “Spamalot” features Daniel Williams, left, and Brant Peitersen.

Compared to the original 2020 cast, two people had to drop out because things came up (with jobs or family), as Patsy and Sir Bedevere had to be recast. Andy Curtiss, from the ensemble, was moved up to the latter, and Daniel Williams (who moved back to the Q-C from St. Louis) took on Patsy, King Arthur’s horse and servant.

“That’s been nicely cathartic for him, having lost his dad this past year,” the director said of Williams, the son of the late Bob Williams – the beloved Guild director who died Oct. 4, 2020 at 61. The ensemble for the new show was reduced by two, with 18 total in the cast.

“Another benefit of doing this only for stream is, our full ensemble can be in everything and we can use them in everything,” Turczynski said. “We don’t have to worry about quick changes. We can do a number, press pause, get them changed and bring them out for the next number, without having to figure out all the logistics of all the costumes and everything.”

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“Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 classic film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Eric Idle (an original Python) and John du Prez’s “Spamalot” is an irreverent, exuberant parody of both the Arthurian legend and Broadway musicals.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

“Spamalot” features Brant Peitersen as King Arthur and Rachel Vickers as Lady of the Lake.

Featuring a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people, the 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was followed by two successful West End runs. It was performed by the former District Theatre in Rock Island in 2014.

In addition to Williams, the main Guild cast is comprised of Brant Peitersen as King Arthur; Rachel Vickers as Lady of the Lake; Jake Walker as Sir Lancelot; Andy Sederquist as Sir Robin; T. J. Green as Sir Dennis Galahad; Andy Curtiss as Sir Bedevere, and Max Robnett as Prince Herbert and Not Dead Fred.

Turczynski added on to the rehearsal process, giving everyone nine weeks altogether (compared to a typical six or seven), to take it slow.

“None of us had done this in a while,” Turczynski said. “It was getting our feet underneath us again. We did limited cast sizes at rehearsals for the most part, to keep that as safe as possible. Vaccines when we started nine weeks ago weren’t where we are now.”

They rehearsed in masks up until about 10 days ago, and originally planned to perform in masks before the CDC changed its recommendations.

“We still have a couple cast members who chose not to get vaccinated for whatever reason, so they’ll still be in masks,” Turczynski said.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

This scene features Brant Peitersen, left, and Andy Curtiss.

“That’s OK; it is what it is. Luckily now, in 2021, it doesn’t seem out of place to see people in masks. It doesn’t look weird.”

He also blocked the show and had dances choreographed (by Sara Laufer) with social distancing in mind, but there were certain moments where actors had to be close to each other, to be believable.

“We still tried to space people out to the best of our ability, but some of the big ensemble numbers when all 18 of them are on stage, it gets a little packed up there,” Turczynski said. “For the most part, we did things as distanced as humanly possible.”

One cast member will be two weeks out from his second vaccine dose when they film, on Saturday, so has been wearing a mask until then.

“We’ve had plenty of time to polish; plenty of time to tweak; plenty of time to make it as good as humanly possible,” Turczynski said. “That’s one of the benefits of being able to rehearse as long as we had. Part of it too was, everyone was ready to go.

“They wanted to do this, they wanted to do theater again,” he said. “Sure, nine weeks of hanging out with people, with seeing people on a regular basis? Nine weeks of creating? That sounds great. I don’t think we’d get away with it at any other time. Right now, we had enough waiting, they were ready and willing to go.”

The videographer for the Peoria Civic Center will do the filming and editing for “Spamalot,” who was recommended by a Music Guild board member. There will be two cameras used for filming, Turczynski said.

Pros and cons of no audience

Not having a live audience may be a challenge, he said.

“There are times when it makes me genuinely sad. We’ve created really funny moments,” Turczynski said. “These guys are incredibly funny. All of them together in one group is quite the comedic team. It makes me genuinely sad we can’t hear that rolling laughter that’s gonna come

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

QCMG’s “Spamalot” reunites this crew from 2019’s “Avenue Q” at Playcrafters — music director Callen Sederquist, left, choreographer Sara Laufer and director Mike Turczynski.

with some of those moments.

“That being said, they’re complete and total professionals about it,” he said. “They know they’re being funny. Luckily, we are finding moments this week when some board members and close friends and family of the organization are coming in to watch rehearsal and give us some of that feedback.”

“We haven’t been shy about laughing,” Turczynski said of his production team during rehearsals. “We reinforce to the best of our ability that they’re doing a good job and how funny they are. They’re making good choices, and the final product, it grows every day. I can’t wait to see what we capture on Saturday because we’re trending towards a really great product.”

Filming takes away a little bit of the magic of live theater, he noted.

“There’s not really a good way to do that, that we know will translate to camera,” Turczynski said. “What we can do is make our product as solid as possible. We lose one thing, but we gain the control on the other hand, which I also appreciate.”

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

“Spamalot” director Mike Turczynski.

“It’s a really good artistic exercise – I’ve learned a lot as director,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot just as an artist in general. My staff and actors have all learned a lot, doing theater in a different way, that’s going to make doing regular theater better.”

“I hope theater in general becomes more accessible, because of things like this,” Turczynski said. “We’re delving into how do we stream shows? Can we find the middle ground of a streamable product that can also have a live audience, without taking away from one or the other?”

Working with Anthony Natarelli and Khalil Hacker on streamed theater productions in the past year was a great help for this, he said.

“I never worked on the film side of things; I’ve always been live theater,” Turczynski said. “Those two, understanding film and being able to have me tag along and help, on stage and off – how to light for camera, how to design for camera, how to move for camera. Being able to do that has helped inform decisions I make here.”

He had a very busy 2019 in directing – “Something Intangible” and “Avenue Q” at Playcrafters, and “Jesus Christ Superstar” that spring, at Music Guild.

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Not being busy in 2020 was very weird, Turczynski said, noting he was on the Music Guild board that had to cancel that year’s shows.

“When we finally got the go-ahead, there was a flurry of activity,” he said of “Spamalot” being rescheduled this year. Fortunately, they were able to get streaming rights, whereas other 2020 shows didn’t have that option. Music Guild will have live audiences for “Mamma Mia” and

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Guild veteran director and set designer Bill Marsoun creates a cast “Martoon” for every show, and this is his latest.

“Matilda” in July and August.

“I still think it’s a very rewarding experience,” Turczynski said of doing the filmed version. “I’m extremely proud of the product we’ve created. What’s really special too, is that it’s going to live on. We’ve never had a professionally filmed production, with all the bells and whistles that everyone gets to take home and have for the rest of their lives.”

They also can reach audiences no matter where they live, as opposed to the live shows.

“It opens up opportunities and it takes them away,” the director said. “We just have to be happy with that. We have to accept that and push forward to the best of our ability.”

The silliness and fun of the show really help during these hard times, Turczynski said.

“Now is really the time to just stop taking everything so seriously. Let’s just sit down and have fun for a couple hours – be silly, be outrageous, be a little irreverent,” he said. “Get it all out. Don’t be afraid to laugh; don’t to be afraid to cry. Don’t be afraid to smile for a hot second. That’s been our mission here.”

“The main goal for these guys was to have fun and have an outlet,” he said. “That’s why they’re as funny as they are and hopefully that’s gonna come forward and make everybody else’s day.”

Flying solo in the orchestra pit

In addition to streaming the first show in its 73-year history, Music Guild also will be using pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment (and many sound effects) for the first time. The digital tracks are in the capable hands of “Spamalot” music director Callen Sederquist, who will be the only one in the orchestra pit.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Jake Walker, a Q-C improv comedy veteran, plays at least four parts in “Spamalot.”

“It’s nice to hear all the choral parts, especially stuff that’s not on the original Broadway cast recording, that kind of come off the page,” she said of the rehearsal tracks. “There was a learning curve for a couple days. I made sure I sang through everything when I was on the tracks, to make sure I could hear a part.”

All the cast got access to the tracks, so they could rehearse at home, with or without the vocals.

“When we first started with everything, we were really restricted on what we could do,” Sederquist said of the possibility of an orchestra. “I appreciate the thought and the care that went into everybody taking the time so we could do things safely and have as few people as possible, to avoid exposure.”

The biggest challenge using tracks is finding a specific spot in the score, as opposed to playing it on the piano.

“It does take time to boot up the system, as opposed to having somebody with their hands on the keyboard,” Sederquist said. “It has been nice to have been able to give the cast the same tracks we’re going to use in filming. They’re plenty used to that, so there’s not that curve of OK, I’ve added a bass and a brass section I’ve never heard before, that weirdness of just before tech. I miss it.”

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Mike Turczynski directed “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Guild in March 2019, which featured Adam Sanders, left, as Judas, and Chase Austin as Jesus.

“The cast has been really wonderful from the get-go, since a number of them had been familiar with it already,” she said. “That was nice.”

A Music Guild newcomer, Max Robnett, had his parts memorized from the moment rehearsals started, Sederquist said. “The cast is very, very capable,” she said. “A lot of very diverse talent, but a lot of people who understand the process and know what’s expected of them, which is great.”

While this is the first time she’s music directed at Guild, she did the job for “Avenue Q” at Playcrafters in spring 2019, which Turczynski also directed. Sederquist is choir director and beginning band director for the Sherrard School District, and music directed their “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” this spring.

Using tracks and filming takes some of the pressure off her in the pit, since they can stop and start during the recording process. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, to make sure I don’t make mistakes,” Sederquist said.

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“I’ve got my score on one side and my computer on the other, clicking with my left hand and conducting with my right,” she said. “They can see me and they’ve done an excellent job of rolling with it.”

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a way. “I hope I can get the hang of this and never have to do it again,” Sederquist said. “It’s a little lonely down there. It keeps me focused; I don’t have any distractions. It’s just me.”

It’s also fun for her to watch her husband Andy (who plays Sir Robin) on stage.

“I’ve never seen the creative process with him in a show. We’ve been in a show together, but we’ve been in different scenes,” Sederquist said. “It’s very fun to see him develop a character over time.”

They’re both big Monty Python fans, having seen the “Flying Circus” series from 5 and 6 years old. She was 9 or 10 when she first saw “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which became her favorite film of the troupe.

Making his Guild debut

Alongside many Music Guild veterans, Robnett is a 23-year-old Bettendorf High alum, and while he’s on this stage for the first time, he’s long been a fan in the seats of Music Guild. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (with a degree in psychology).

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

Three performers who were in the original 2020 cast of QCMG’s “Secret Garden” participated in the April 2021 filmed cabaret.

Robnett did shows in high school, and was on stage for the Mississippi Bend Players first show, “Zombie Prom,” in 2017. His favorites at BHS were “Rumours” and “Mary Poppins.”

“I have very gossipy friends who like to make up stuff,” and one thing they made up was that Music Guild was “very cliquey, so if you weren’t in with someone, it was very difficult to get in,” Robnett said. “It made me a little nervous.”

His sister told him he had to try out for “Spamalot,” since they were Python fans. “Apparently it was the right show to do, because after my first audition, I’m a principal. I’m happy about that,” he said.

Robnett plays a variety of roles – Historian, Not Dead Fred, Prince Herbert, Minstrel and French Guard.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”

“On With the Show,” a Music Guild cabaret, filmed performances from the Prospect Park stage, and made it available to stream in April.

“I watched it so much as a high schooler,” he said of Monty Python. “I own every episode of the television show; the only movie I don’t have is ‘Meaning of Life.’ They were my everything – I’d watch them all the time. So it’s only fair I wanted to be in this and I’m so happy I managed to. It’s been an absolute blast.”

Robnett was not familiar with “Spamalot” before he tried out. “Goodness gracious, I never knew this existed before, and I was really surprised because Tim Curry was in the Broadway cast and he’s one of my favorites,” he said.

He’s found Music Guild to be the opposite of cliquey.

“I am so unhappy I was kept away from it for so long due to those fears,” Robnett said. “I’m especially happy to find it with the cast and crew we have now. It’s been a gem to experience.”

He’s also thrilled to be part of the filming process.

“I’m not as comfortable with filming as with staged theater,” Robnett said. “I think it’s an interesting learning opportunity and I’m excited to get to do it, just to say that I did it. ‘Cause how many stage actors get to say that they did a stage play while filmed, which is usually reserved for Broadway.”

Tickets for “Spamalot” are $12 for a single-person stream pass; $18 for a couple, and $30 for a family, available by calling the box office at 309.762.6610 or by visiting www.qcmusicguild.com.

Moline’s Quad-City Music Guild Returns With Streamed “Spamalot”
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
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