In Part 6 of a series of interviews with the cast of The Port Tobacco Players’ Spamalot, meet Brian Merritt.
Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Most recently you may have seen me as Speed Freak in Superhero Sanitarium, PTP’s submission to the Maryland One Act Festival. We took first at the state level, and third at regionals. I’ve been doing shows at Port Tobacco Players since 1996, where I’ve enjoyed playing many roles such as Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Balladeer in Assassins, and Jesus in Godspell.
Tell us about the character you play and how you relate to them.
I play a few roles: The (not-so) brave Sir Robin, Guard 1, and Brother Maynard. So, a coward, an imbecile, and a long-winded monk, respectively. I don’t identify with any of those traits, so I look for small things to relate to. With Robin, the one trait we do share is our love for performing, which is featured in the number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” The best way for me to relate to all of the characters overall is to play into the silliness of the comedic style. Our director, Brooke Howells-Weiser, has basically given me a pass to be as silly as I want, which is great, because I am just a silly person.
What has been the most fun playing them?
I get to deliver a few of the more recognizable bits from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is a bit daunting, but ultimately incredibly satisfying.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your roles and how did your director help you with these challenges?
The dancing. Always the dancing. I’ve worked with Brooke before, so she knows my capabilities, and how to work with me. Our ensemble cast is also incredibly talented, and very helpful in re-teaching me steps I forget. The comedy, on the other hand, comes pretty easy with this cast. Every single one of these people is so funny in real life, I’m surprised we got anything done at all.
Tell us about your big numbers and what you learn about your character during the song?
Robin’s big number is “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” It’s the type of song that really comes out of nowhere, especially for a character like Robin, who actually soils himself in fear just minutes earlier. It’s a complete 180 for him, and I loved exploring that side of him. I also really enjoy showing the audience that bubbling underneath the goofy coward is a goofy performer.
What is your favorite song in the show that someone else sings and why?
I really like “I’m All Alone.” Jimmy Payne (King Arthur) and Michael Margelos (Patsy) have an incredible stage chemistry that would shine through even if they just stood there and did nothing. And to allow them a comedic, “emotional” duet like this is almost dangerous, but in a good way. The knights do eventually join in, but before then I get to enjoy Jimmy and Mikey’s part each night from the stage-left wing.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmembers?
This is easily one of the most vocally talented casts I’ve worked with. You finally get to hear the entire cast sing toward the end of act one, and it’s powerful. And again, every single person in this cast is a comedian in their own right. It keeps everything backstage so calm and easy, so working with this cast is therapeutic and such a joy.
Why do you think Spamalot is still so popular?
Monty Python has probably the largest cult following of anything of the “cult” genre. I base that on absolutely nothing, but it’s probably true. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is arguably the most popular, or at least most well-known of the collection, which definitely adds to lasting popularity of Spamalot. This show is pure, joyful silliness, and that never goes out of style.
What has been the craziest things that have happened on the stage during the run (that was not expected)?
Sometimes trees fall or break in half. Sometimes mustaches start to come unstuck and have to be unceremoniously removed and shoved down Patsy’s tunic. Sometimes your pants fall down during your dance number, and you just have to kick them off and keep going. Ideally, we want to avoid things like this, but the important thing with all of these is that our actors know how to handle them. There’s no point in trying to pretend it didn’t happen, so we just make it part of the show. We let the audience in on the joke, and it nullifies any tension and turns it into comedy. It’s truly a different show each time, so come see it a few times! (shameless plug!)
Which costume in the show is your favorite and why?
I love my tunic for Sir Robin. I really do. If I had to choose my favorite based on looks alone, I’d choose that one easily. In fact, all the tunics are beautiful. However, I need to give a shout out to the costume I wear when you first meet Robin. It’s the only costume that I don’t sweat in profusely, and for that, I am grateful.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Spamalot?
A genuine love for Community Theater, and a desire to support it, not just at PTP, but at venues in Southern Maryland, and beyond. And maybe a can of Spam, if you’re “lucky.”
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.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at The Port Tobacco Players’: Part 5: Patrick Pruitt.
Meet the Cast of ‘Spamalot’ at The Port Tobacco Players: Part 6: Brian Merritt.