"Q&A with ‘Spamalot’ star Anthony Holds
Anthony Holds, who plays Galahad in the touring production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, has strong Indiana ties. He lived in Indy from age 5 to high school graduation, matriculating from Park Tudor in 1993.
The Naval Academy-graduate-turned-show-tune-belter still has fond memories of his hometown, just some of what we discussed via phone while he was in Rochester, N.Y.
NUVO: What do you miss about Indianapolis?
HOLDS: I remember enjoying the fall in Indy. We had a big apple orchard at Park Tudor. [I miss] the smells. I’m a big basketball and football fan, always really enjoyed the Colts and the Pacers and the basketball hype in Indiana that you don’t find anywhere else; that was a lot of fun.
NUVO: I bet you had a lot of fun with the last Super Bowl.
HOLDS: I left in ’93 and after I left, the Pacers got good and then years later the Colts got really good, so I kind of feel like they waited till I left. But I’ve been following closely from afar.
NUVO: After graduation, you went to Annapolis. How did you go from the Naval Academy into what seems a huge transition to the stage?
HOLDS: Growing up I’d done a lot of performing; I played sports as well. I never really thought of performing as a career possibility — I’m not sure why but it just seemed there were not as many people in Indianapolis doing it professionally. And so I thought, what would I like to do if I couldn’t perform for a career? My dad had gone to the Naval Academy and been a career naval officer and my mom even spent some time in the Navy as a naval officer. That had always really been part of my life and intrigued me and so I got very excited about the possibility of going to the Naval Academy and pursuing being a pilot. I think at the end of the day a lot of it was the actor in me excited about the trappings of being a Navy pilot and whatnot, and the nitty-gritty and the math of it and everything ended up being something I wasn’t quite as passionate about.
But I went to the Naval Academy and started performing there and got involved in the Glee Club and doing the shows every year. I kind of had this big epiphany the spring of my junior year that I really wanted to make performing my life. After your sophomore year at the Naval Academy you sign a post-graduate [contract for a] baseline of at least a five-year commitment in the fleet after you graduate, so I knew that was gonna happen. So I decided I wanted to do this and I had a long period of time in which I could change my mind if I wanted to! And I didn’t.
I spent five years in the fleet on a few different ships, and while I was doing that, any free time I had I tried to get up, or down, depending on where I was, to New York and take some voice and acting classes.
In late 2001 I got off active duty and moved up to New York and started from scratch.
NUVO: While you were on active duty you were doing a lot of traveling for acting and voice classes…
HOLDS: Yeah. The possibilities for that were limited once I got on board ship. Certainly the first year out of the Naval Academy I was putting a couple thousand miles on my car every week commuting to New York.
I didn’t want to let anybody down by sort of doing less than my best at the Navy thing, but certainly by that point I had realized that I hoped to make my future in performing.
NUVO: A few years after your Broadway debut, you got into Spamalot on Broadway. That was after the original cast had moved on.
HOLDS: There were a couple members of the original cast. Michael McGrath, the original Patsy, is still there, Steve Rosen, who played Bedivere. Tim Curry and Hank [Azaria] and David Hyde Pierce and those guys had moved along.
NUVO: How do you think people are going to react to the show, both big Monty Python fans as well as people who are seeing something like this for the first time?
HOLDS: I think the great thing about our show is that it seems to have an appeal that transcends just the Monty Python devotee. First of all, it’s nice because there is sort of a rabid, underground Monty Python fanbase, and they haven’t been alienated. I think we accomplished that pretty aptly, as they seem to always enjoy the show.
I remember watching Holy Grail with my folks growing up and they thought it was humorous, but I thought maybe they were humoring me a bit as well — they didn’t love it I would say. And they love the [stage] show. There are a number of people like that. I don’t think you have to hugely be a fan of the original Python material to really enjoy this show. Eric [Idle, one of the creators] has taken a lot of the original material and kept it intact but kept an accessibility to it through the addition of the musical numbers and sort of a self-referential, mocking musical theater thing. It almost takes on a Mel Brooks quality in little bits. It’s a slightly different animal but it really tends to appeal to both the Python devotees and to people who maybe aren’t familiar with or aren’t sure about the original material.
NUVO: You have done Spamalot on Broadway and now also on tour. What’s the difference?
HOLDS: The biggest difference between being in the Broadway company and on the road is simply having the dynamic of always having a different house to play to. But there’s very few differences. The show you’re seeing on the road is the original show; there’s only a few minor set differences made necessary by having to lug things across the country, but even those are terrifically small. I guess it’s just the energy and the feel of the show is going to be ever so slightly different because everyone’s bringing their own sensibility to the roles. I remember when I first saw the show how bizarre it was to see something that I had seen about 200 times done by a different group of people and it was the same show, but different. It’s been fun bringing the sensibility that I developed in the New York show and sort of blending it into what’s developed here.
What’s all this about SPAM?
For the uninitiated, a little background: Monty Python is a group of British actors and writers (and one American) that performed the now-famous comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus on the BBC from 1969 to 1974. In 1975, the group created the incredibly low budget film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the hopes of backing a dud in order to evade British taxes, such luminaries as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, George Harrison and Andrew Lloyd Webber financed it.
The lack of money actually ended up contributing to many of the film’s most memorable attributes. For example, they couldn’t afford real horses, hence the idea of using two halves of a coconut.
The film became a cult-like favorite, and in 2004, it was named by fans the best British picture of all time by the U.K. arm of Amazon and the Internet Movie Database.
In 2005, the stage musical adaptation, Monty Python’s Spamalot, opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre with five of the living Pythons — John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin — and the ashes of Graham Chapman in attendance. It garnered the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
So what’s up with the SPAM? SPAM was one of the few meat products not limited by rationing in Britain during World War II and the Brits got pretty sick of it. The Pythons created a sketch involving a restaurant that serves lots and lots of SPAM. As the waitress keeps repeating the word, a group of Vikings begin chanting, “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM …” In the movie and musical, the Knights of the Round Table sing, “We eat ham and jam and SPAM a lot.” Hence the name of the show, and the use of the term “spam” for unwanted junk mail.
What: Broadway Across America-Indianapolis presents Monty Python’s Spamalot
Where: Murat Theatre
When: May 8-13
Info: Murat or Clowes box offices, Ticketmaster or www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com