Q&A with ‘Spamalot’ cast member Thomas DeMarcus

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Thomas DeMarcus was a kid growing up in Tennessee when he first came across the work of Monty Python. DeMarcus, who’s been a company member in the touring production of the musical “Spamalot” based on the Python oeuvre, said the work of the comedy troupe was a revelation. Films like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “The Meaning of Life” and the sketch TV show that started it all gave DeMarcus instilled a lifelong interest in improvisation, comedy and live performance. We caught up with DeMarcus to talk about how that early fascination has been a benefit as a “Spamalot” cast member, and how the role has deepened his love of one modern comedy’s most irreverent and beloved troupes.

Aurora Sentinel: Can you give me a quick idea of your history with the show?

Thomas DeMarcus: I’ve been with this tour since September of 2010. We started in New York the first year. I’ve played different parts throughout the years. Right now, I just understudy King Arthur. I play Sir Bedivere, and I also play the Black Knight. I play Galahad’s mother.

Has playing myriad roles in a single production been a challenge?

It hasn’t been a terrible challenge. I think the challenge is living up to the Monty Python history. I have a background in improv and sketch comedy, so the idea of changing hats has come a little more naturally. There is that pressure for the large amount of Monty Python fans who come to this show with an ingrained idea. There is a pressure there to perform this material well for the fans.

I imagine Monty Python fans can be pretty picky about how this material is performed. Have you run into anyone complaining about the show taking liberties with the material?

I’m happy to say that I have not run into those fans. I’d say the Monty Python fans in general are very supportive of us.
We have people who come dressed to the show as the knights, we have people who whistle along with the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” we have people who say the lines. We did a show a couple of weeks ago in Alabama. My parents were there, and told me the couple behind them were basically quoting the whole show as it was going on.

We even met Eric Idle last year. He came to the show when we came to L.A. He had very, very positive things to say.

What was it like to meet Eric Idle, an original Python troupe member who helped create this stage adaptation?

We were in L.A. for a week. We had heard rumors that every night there would be people of importance. We never heard actual names. Someone had spotted Eric Idle in the audience.

He came backstage and we took a cast photo with him. He was so happy. He was beaming. He took the time and introduced himself to every single person. We were trying not to bombard him with praise, but you’re kind of forced to.

As someone with a background in improv comedy, has it been difficult sticking to a set script?

It’s been a challenge. I’ve never done a show that’s had this sort of specific fan base. In rehearsal, our director and our choreographer had their finger on the pulse of what it needed to be. These are sort of comedy master classes. It could come down to a half a second pause – it makes all the difference. There is that pressure there.

When the knights who say ni, when they come onstage, you have to have the voice they have in the movie. The French knight has to be despicable and disgusting, but he’s having fun. I haven’t seen the movie in a couple of years. I try to stay away from it … I try to make the part my own, but you do have to respect the source material.

If you did play around, you would find that it’s not as funny. You’re not as funny as the material is, as much as it pains me to say that.

Were you a Python fan before you started with the show?

Yes, I was a huge fan. My parents introduced me to Monty Python. They were instilling this sense of humor into a young boy growing up in Tennessee. I think the whole sketch thing was very ambitious, to have six guys playing all of the parts.

This has been a much more personal connection to the material. I think it’s different when you see the TV show. You never truly get it. Until you meet countless people who are quoting these lines back to you, you don’t really get a grasp of the timeless aspect of this comedy. They’re so excited when they meet us afterwards, when they see us coming to the theater. My appreciation for Monty Python has grown, and it’s become a lot more well-rounded.

“Spamalot” runs for four performances from March 28 to 30 at the Buell Theatre, 950 13th St. in Denver. Tickets start at $30. Information: 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at [email protected] or 720-449-9707

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