Kasidy Devlin is having a blast as the longest-running Sir Robin in the national tour of “Spamalot,” clippety-clopping onto the Paramount Theatre stage in Cedar Rapids on Friday night (3/1).
It’s Devlin’s second go-round as the “brave” knight of the Round Table in the Monty Python musical spoof, where most of the audience knows all the laugh lines.
He’s done “a lot of Shakespeare and other great shows,” Devlin said by phone en route from Massachusetts to Orono, Maine, last week. But this is even better.
“What’s fun about this show is you feel a little bit like a rock star ... because so many of these lines are so beloved that people will shout the lines out along with you. To get a near standing ovation with just four words is a fantastically powerful experience as an actor.”
We’re at least one generation away from the heyday of television’s zany “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and the movies it spawned, including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” That 1975 cinematic “Camelot” spoof inspired the 2005 Tony-winning Best Musical, “Spamalot,” a silly homage full of flying cows, bumbling knights, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, a siren-esque Lady of the Lake, a killer rabbit and of course, shrubbery.
Nowadays, theater patrons flock to the song-and-dance extravaganza for various reasons.
“Depending on where we are around the country, we do get two different kinds of audiences,” said Devlin, a Pennsylvania native now based in Manhattan. “You have either the musical theater audiences or the Python audiences.
“What’s wonderful is that (writer and Python actor Eric Idle) did such a good job in adapting this show from the film that you can tell by where they laugh what kind of audience you have. And it plays to both audiences, which I think really is a testament to his skills in adapting this and making the most accessible product possible.” Even though Devlin is just 29, he was immersed in the Pythonian realm at an early age.
“I was 9 years old, and everybody was talking about it on playground,” he said.
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So he went to the video store in his hometown just north of Scranton, Pa., to rent “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But he wasn’t old enough to rent it. Seeing his crushed spirit, the clerk, who also was a Monty Python fan, told the lad to meet him in the back of the parking lot.
“He slipped me a copy of the VHS. He told me to get it back to him by tomorrow — that it’s something everybody needs to see. I went home and watched it that night, and naturally, was addicted.”
That fascination continued, and when he got his first paycheck from his first job during high school, he bought the complete VHS box set of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
“Spamalot” is a natural career progression for Devlin, since he’s able to incorporate so many aspects from his studies of commedia dell’arte in Italy during high school, and in college at The Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in northern California. Based on an early theatrical style that was popular in the 16th to 18th centuries, it continues to inform theater, comedy and circus styles.
“They taught us everything from mask performance, commedia dell’arte, mime, clown, melodrama, Greek tragedy, and to just be so well-versed in those different styles,” he said. “The physical demands and the stylistic demands translate completely to a show that is so stylized. There are so many tiny techniques that I was taught that I use all the time ... It was an incredible, incredible training I had, and I feel almost all of my life experience up to this point has led me to do this show.”
He was hired for the second national tour of “Spamalot” in 2010 and was on the from 2011 to 2013, including a “raucous” stop at the University of Northern Iowa’s Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls in 2012. Then, ironically, he joined the national tour of “Camelot” before returning to “Spamalot” last year.
Sir Robin as “the hero of the story, in my opinion,” he said with a laugh. “I honestly think he’s the most realistic of all of them. Yes, he’s cowardly, yes, he’s known for not being the bravest, he’s known for soiling himself at least three times on stage that we know of.
“It’s an absurdist Python world where there are killer rabbits, there are flying cows, taunting Frenchmen, Knights Who Say Ni. It’s a terrifyingly dangerous world to live in, and frankly, Robin is the only character that behaves with the appropriate amount of terror. ...
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“He is so much like me,” Devlin said. “I put so much of myself into him, and maybe because I’ve been with the character so long, he’s started to shape into me. This is an archetype of character that I probably will be playing for the rest of my life.”
The times have changed since Devlin first stepped into the role, and his big showstopping number in the second half could be cringeworthy, as he tells King Arthur that “we won’t succeed on Broadway if he don’t have any Jews.” He married into a Jewish family between stints in the show, so he’s been able to turn to his wife, Natalie, and her family for deeper insight into the number.
“I was a little nervous about coming back with it, just because the climate has changed” in between tours, he said. “This is a testament to the Pythons. They’re such intelligent people. The song has such an inside sense of vocabulary in things that we reference, that audience members who are Jewish find it even funnier than all the (non-Jews) in the audience.”
He was worried, however, about doing the song on the day of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last October. But it became one of their most moving performances, he said.
“It was very nerve-racking when I was about to go into an 8-minute number, because I didn’t know how it would be received ...
“To see cast members with tears in their eyes doing the number, it has never gotten a bigger response than it did that day.”
•WHAT: Broadway at the Paramount: “Spamalot” national tour
•WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
•WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (3/1)
•TICKETS: $56 to $76, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
•SHOW’S WEBSITE: Spamalotontour.com