Shift in CHS musical ‘Spamalot’ alleviates drama for performing arts

Unlike the past seven musical productions performed at CHS, this year’s “Spamalot,” a musical version of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” is set to open the last weekend of September rather than in late March as Carmel High’s musicals have in past years.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while,” music teacher Brian Handley says. “This year seemed right to experiment the placement of the musical.”

One of the main reasons for transitioning the musical to the fall is to alleviate the stress of the spring, especially for the music department, which provides a live pit orchestra to accompany the performance, but also to give the chance to spring athletes to be a part of the production, according to both Handley and drama teacher Gracie Poletti.

“I think it’s great to move the show from the spring to the fall,” says senior TJ Sullinger, cast as King Arthur in the production. “More people can do the show which means more talented and lovely people in the cast. I’d love for it to permanently be in the fall, and for those of us who do the musical regularly, it’s no problem.”

Additionally, for students who are a part of the pit orchestra, the shift alleviates much of the chaotic stress, according to junior pit orchestra member Olive DeLuca.

Although preparation just started in mid-August, issues regarding both the timing and the show in general have arisen, according to Poletti. In the first week of rehearsal, a censorship issue arose about a song which the administration believed contained a slur to a certain people. However, Poletti brought it to their attention that it was actually an homage to a certain cultural group which had contributed much to Broadway.

“Once the administration understood the true culture and historical backdrop of the song, they were okay with it,” Poletti says. “Aside from that, I’m worried about the numerous freshmen who auditioned and might be overwhelmed with the entry into high school. However, I’m sure we’ll all manage.”

On the musical side of things, every other year the music department competes in the Heritage Festival in Anaheim. With the transition of the musical to the September, stress is mollified for March and April, according to Handley.

With benefits come setbacks. The only implication in the fall for the music department is home football games, for which the school’s pep band must be present. The football game before October break has been moved to Friday afternoon, rather than the traditional Saturday game. Unfortunately, the game occurs the same day as a “Spamalot” performance.

“It might be a little too long a day for our pit orchestra, but we’ll make it work,” Handley says.

Another plus for the music department would be the reduction in sacrifices the jazz band has to make in order to accommodate pit orchestra rehearsals.

“Normally, we replace the jazz rehearsals, which occur on Monday evenings, with pit orchestra based on mutual members who are already available then,” Handley says. “As a result of shifting the musical, jazz would potentially only be starting a week later rather than having to give up three weeks of rehearsal in the already chaotic spring.”

The drama and music departments will not know until May whether the shift of the musical was a success or not.

“We may do it and say we’re never doing that again,” Handley says, “or we may say, ‘Okay that works, that’s an option,’ or we may say, ‘That was fantastic. That’s the place it needs to be.’”

The musical is set to open Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in the CHS performing arts center. Other dates include Sept. 30, Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m., and Oct. 6-7 at 7 p.m.