In Part 4 of a series of interviews with the cast of The Port Tobacco Players’ Spamalot, meet Michael J. Margelos.
Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
I have been an active member of the Port Tobacco Players since 1998 and an active member of the Hard Bargain Players since 1999. Between the two theaters, I have performed in 35 full length productions and three one-acts (for the Maryland One-Act Festival).
Tell us about the characters you play and how you relate to them.
I play three characters in the show: Patsy, The Mayor, and Guard 2. The latter two are each only in one scene, but are very important characters.
The Mayor is trying to keep his people happy by helping them understand the importance of their major food source and export. With the respect they have for this food source, they overcome the depression caused by the cold, dreary land in which they live through the magic of song and dance.
Guard 2 has been in the employ of Prince Herbert’s family for years and, after years of being verbally abused by the King of the Swamp Castle, developed a bit of a drinking problem. He is a man of little words, but is as loyal as they come.
Patsy is King Arthur’s squire/servant/trusty steed. He is a constant support to the King, keeping him company on his search for knights to join him at the Round Table (and, even though he is only a working class citizen, correcting Arthur’s mistakes and providing “through-the-fourth-wall” commentary to the audience).
Out of the three, I think I relate to Patsy the most. In any social setting, I’m the guy who can just sit and observe and make specific commentary here and there (especially when it’s funny). The facial asides I make to the audience throughout the show are very similar to ones I tend to make on a daily basis (non-verbal commentary is one of my specialties…except I have to be careful because my expressions clearly portray any opinions I may have). And, like Patsy, I would travel to the ends of the Earth and back for a friend in need and am always there to cheer them up. I am also a firm believer in Patsy’s mantra of “Always look on the bright side of life.”
What has been the most fun playing these characters?
I have had a blast figuring out the little nuances each character has. The Mayor is of Finnish ancestry, so finding a jolly, Scandinavian accent was a hoot (think the Swedish Chef, but more comprehendible).
Guard 2 has to incorporate my non-verbal expressions, so making sure that I am noticeable enough without taking too much from the rest of the scene has been a delightful exercise.
Patsy is just the best. Working with Jimmy Payne as Arthur has been the most fun I have had on stage in a while (we worked together in PTP’s 2010 production of The Producers). We have developed amazing chemistry based on trust, my respect for the easily-confused and his love of smelly animals that may or may not steal scenes from him.
Have you appeared in any other productions of Spamalot?
This is has been first time performing in Spamalot. I grew up on Monty Python and Mel Brooks, so when the chance arose, I jumped on it.\
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and how did your director help you with these challenges?
Patsy is the most challenging character out of the three I play. Trying to convincingly “play” my coconuts to match up with Arthur’s riding speed (which he always likes to vary…to test me, I’m sure) can be a challenge. Also, dancing with my pack on can be a bit of work. The two tap numbers I dance in have also been a great challenge. This is not the first show I have tap danced in, but it has been a while. Our fearless leader, Brooke Howells-Weiser, is always encouraging those who dance in her shows. She immediately knows each cast member’s strengths and weaknesses and plays to those strengths whilst helping to improve the weaknesses. She is always offering up time to assist in our practicing both dancing and acting when she is able to. I have known her since high school, and she has always been a great teacher both on and off the stage (and knows how to put up with my B.S. and call me out on it).
Tell us about your big numbers and what you learn about your character during the song?
The biggest number for Patsy is “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” This song really shows the relationship between Arthur and Patsy and how much of a rock Patsy is for the King. Arthur is not doing so well with the quest at hand (to find the Holy Grail) and has become depressed. Patsy tells him things could be much worse and that a positive attitude can help clear up even the stormiest of days.
What is your favorite song in the show that someone else sings and why?
My favorite song in the show that someone else sings is “Whatever Happened to My Part?” because Carmel Ferrer (who plays the Lady of the Lake) absolutely kills it (OK, and it’s also part of my one long-ish break in the entire show). I’m also a big fan of “Find Your Grail,” but I guess that doesn’t count since I sing a bit with the Knights and Ensemble (but she gets to sing the bulk of it and, yet again, slays).
What have you learned about yourself the actor while performing your role in Spamalot?
I have learned how to retain and refine my comedic timing. This show has kept me on my toes because it is so outrageously funny and sometimes reactions are different (both on stage and in the audience). The more the audience reacts and is yearning for inclusion in the jokes, the more non-verbal asides I throw out. What can I say; I’m a giver. But it’s helped me refine how much I give to them, just enough to whet their appetite but not so much that they overeat at the buffet…and become tired and listless…and unbuckle their belts in order to be comfortable enough to breath and take a nap. If that happens, then we’ve lost them…to tryptophan.
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
Out of all of the characters in the show, I believe I’m most like the Rabbit of Caerbannog: real cute and cuddly until you push that final button and I go medieval on your arse.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmembers?
The thing I admire most about all of my cast members is their endurance. We have had a lot thrown at us these past few months, and they have all been positive and hard-working (we’re all volunteers and personal/professional lives can really get in the way of positivity, so it’s hard to keep up sometimes). I also admire their senses of humor (some similar, some way different), for without the humor, we would have never gotten to where we are now.
Why do you think Spamalot is still so popular?
What makes Spamalot still popular today is our need, as a society, for comedic escape. Comedy has been around forever and is probably the healthiest form of escapism out there (hey, laughing burns calories). The comedy in this show is addictive and easy to follow and just plain fun (with a little heart mixed into it as well).
Growing up, it seemed like Monty Python was always on PBS. I’m guessing that not everyone grew up on watching British television on PBS like I did, but I can’t help feeling that most people, at some point in life (probably in college) have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You hear quotes from the film (and other Python films/sketches) everywhere, so even if you haven’t seen anything, you can still have a familiarity with the material because of that funny thing the nerdy guy in your office says all the time (that nerdy guy is me). The music is also really catchy, so that makes this show so memorable (the styles of music are familiar to most things you can catch on the radio).
What has been the craziest things that have happened on the stage during the run (that was not expected)?
In a comedy such as Spamalot, there is the opportunity for things to go wrong at any time. Most of the time, those unexpected issues can bring out some really fun improvisational opportunities. There is one, evil tree that attacks people a lot on and off stage. There have been two shows, already, in which it has caused the action on stage to stop because it wants to have its time in the limelight. They say you should never work with animals and children. To that, I say, “pshaw!” Never work with foliage.
Which costume in the show is your favorite and why?
I really can’t complain about any of my costumes. After all of the constant galloping and dancing and falling and sweating that I do during this show, they have all held up rather nicely. *knocks on wood* If I had to choose a favorite piece, it would be my Patsy tunic with my own personal sun symbol on it.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Spamalot?
With the amount used, the audiences will more than likely walk away with glitter and confetti, which they’ll keep finding for months after (glitter and confetti are worse than bunnies and cockroaches when it comes to reproducing). But, I truly hope that they leave our theater with a smile on their face and warmth in their hearts. The show is just delightful and isn’t meant to do anything more than entertain. If we help someone who had the worst week ever forget about their troubles for even just a few hours, then we have done our jobs as performers.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at The Port Tobacco Players: Part 1: Jimmy Payne.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at the Port Tobacco Players: Part 2: Ryan Dolan.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at the Port Tobacco Players: Part 3: Carmel Ferrer.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at The Port Tobacco Players’: Part 4: Michael J. Margelos.