The Holy Grail via Edgerton

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Ann Fiore
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

EDGERTON-Dan Houser wanted to play Patsy in "Spamalot" so badly, he memorized all of the character's songs and brought his own coconuts to the audition.

That was enough to impress Jim Tropp, who cast Houser in the Monty Python musical that he's directing for the brand-new Rock River Repertory Theatre Company.

The show opens Friday, Aug. 9, at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center.

"Doing a comedy has been a dream of mine," said Houser, a local graphic artist and huge fan of Monty Python movies.

"He's totally Patsy," Tropp said of Houser, whose character is the long-suffering servant of King Arthur.

"I've got a really good cast of people who love, LOVE this show."

For the uninitiated, "Spamalot" is Eric Idle's loving rip-off of the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which follows King Arthur and his knights on their bumbling quest to find the Holy Grail. Along the way, they encounter beautiful showgirls, endure taunts from French soldiers and barely survive an attack by a killer rabbit.

The Tony Award-winning Broadway show strays from the film in one aspect: The king and his crew must put on a Broadway musical as part of the quest.

A Python fan since he was 13, Houser understands the importance of the coconuts. It's Patsy's job to bang the shells together to make the sound of a horse's hooves as the king "rides" in front of him.

As the straight man, Patsy has to correct King Arthur's math and set up the punch lines. But he's also got some of the funniest lines-and he gets squashed by a flying cow.

That part requires some practice, Houser said, "otherwise I won't be able to do it properly."

Tropp also found a natural ham in Dan Drozdowicz, a licensed plumber and theater aficionado who runs E&D Water Works in Janesville.

A Python fan since high school, Drozdowicz has five parts, including Tim the Enchanter, Dennis' Mother and the Black Knight. He called the role of Dennis' Mother "one of the funnest."

In the auditions, "He (Tropp) knew I knew that it was a man playing a woman," Drozdowicz said. "I was able to jump right into that voice. I think it'll be funny for the community to see me in drag."

Both Houser and Drozdowicz praised the cast, calling Tim Rosenthal a "perfect fit" as King Arthur.

"Rehearsals for this have been a blast," Houser said. "We made a pledge to have as much fun as we can until they tell us to get to work. But here, the work is fun."

"Spamalot" is packed with British humor and features lots of singing and dancing. The Edgerton set is simpler than that for the Broadway musical-sorry, no 45-pound flying cow-but Tropp did borrow some armor from Broadway.

Houser said he would rate the show PG-13 for crude humor and some violence. It should be fine for older children, he said, although some jokes will be over their heads.

"If they're Monty Python fans, I'd say bring 'em," Houser said. "Being a Python fan is a good thing."

"Spamalot" is the first production for the Rock River Rep, which was formed after Tropp resigned as artistic director of Bower City Theatre Company. He declined to speak on the record about the split.

Tropp, who holds a seat on the new board of directors, said he's found lots of support-financial and otherwise-for the new company.

Tropp's brother, Paul, also is the executive director of the Edgerton PAC.

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