The holy grail of local theatre

Champlain Park resident Dennis Van Staalduinen will be playing four characters in the Orpheus production of SPAMALOT. Photos by Ted Simpson.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table will do battle with killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen and Knights who say Ni in the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society’s latest project, SPAMALOT.

SPAMALOT is a musical adaptation of the classic film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Tony Award winning musical was co-created by former Python Eric Idle and made its Broadway debut in 2005. Hintonburg’s own theatre company, Orpheus, have spun together their own rendition with a cast of colourful characters and set designs.

In rehearsal since December, the group are gearing up to bring their production to Centrepointe Theatre starting March 7. The crew for this production features two Kitchissippi locals and Orpheus veterans, John Solman heading the production and behind-the-scenes work, while Dennis Van Staalduinen takes on four classic Python characters.

Van Staalduinen’s list of roles range from the brave knight Sir Lancelot to the mystic pyromaniac Tim the Enchanter, to the towering leader of the Knights of Ni, to the villainous Taunting Frenchman. Each outlandish character comes with equally outlandish accents that have been part of Western vernacular since the 70’s.

“I am a lifelong Python fan, and a life long class clown, I’ve been goofing around with these accents all my life,” says Van Staalduinen, who has been an actor with Orpheus since 1997. “The hard part is figuring out what you are going to do with it that is different.”

Click photo to enlarge.

Making the actors and sets look good on stage is a seldom-appreciated art that is carried out by Solman and his crew. Solman’s primary role is lighting design and overseeing production side of the theatre, “Making sure when (the crew) have major problems, that something gets done about them,” he says.

After more than 20 years doing theatre production, Solman keeps coming back to Orpheus for the fun times and big perks that are hard to come by in community theatre.

“On the production side (Orpheus) gives more opportunities than a lot of other groups, we’re in Centrepointe which is a big well equipped theatre, there aren’t very many organizations that provide that level of opportunity for community people to work in and play in.”

The aesthetic for this production is pure fun, with medieval costumes splattered with saturated colours and numerous cans of the infamous meat product that the musical takes its name from, Spam.

“In my university days I may have experimented with some Spam-based dishes,” says Van Staalduinen, near gleeful as he explains what he has in store for theatre goers. “As the Taunter I get to do my outrageous French accent, with the Knights of Ni I get to wear these incredibly high stilts, Tim the Enchanter is cool because I get to use some pyrotechnics, and then Lancelot is this sort of blundering idiot that kills a lot of people, so that’s a lot of fun,” he laughs. “What could be better?”

“He usually comes out for the weird roles,” adds Solman.

The musical adaptation also features a fan favourite, the limbless Black Knight, and a new character as a love interest for Arthur in The Lady of the Lake.

Being a father of three, Van Staalduinen has to limit his theatre participation to one show per year, though he sees acting not so much as an escape but as a vessel to his inner child, “I have insane kids who do silly accents and like to make fart jokes, so it helps me bond with my kids too.”

The Orpheus crew will be presenting nine performances of SPAMALOT from March 7 to 16 at Centrepointe Theatre. Tickets are $20 for children and $40 for adults. For more information go to



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