Interview with a King
Spamalot has been on Broadway since 2004, and in that time it has garnered praise from every corner of the musical theater world. The show was nominated for Tony Awards, even winning Best Musical in 2005 following the show’s debut at Chicago’s Schubert theater. It has been lauded for its pitch-perfect stage adaptation of the film it was “lovingly ripped off from”, 1975 comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, maintaining the film’s unique sense of humor while adding a flair for the improvisational and the dramatic that only a stage production can bring. That was exactly the vibe I got when I answered the phone call from Steve McCoy, better known to audiences around the country as King Arthur.
Steve first toured with Spamalot in 2010 on the show’s first national tour and is back with the show on this most recent tour. McCoy called me from an airport terminal in frigid South Dakota where he and the rest of the Spamalot cast and crew had been stranded for the night due to high winds and low temperatures. “Don’t even ask,” he responded when I asked where he was. He went on to describe how the old show business adage “the show must go on” applied here, telling me how as soon as the flight delay came down, his crew scattered to quickly find new flights. Their roles were crucial and while the cast could arrive the day of and walk straight onto the stage to perform, the crew needed to be there days in advance to set up.
Our discussion of show business drama segued perfectly into my first question: “How did you get your start in performing?” Steve responded by informing me that he grew up in Manchester, “like the one from Manchester by the Sea,” and participated in a performing arts camp every summer from the ages of 12 to 18. Attendees would rehearse a Broadway musical all summer before finally performing it in a showcase. From Manchester, Steve went on to get his Bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of Miami, and from there entered the business. I asked him what advice he would have for aspiring theater students and he offered this: “Learn how to do everything…and be nice to everyone.” One never knows where their next opportunity will come, especially in theater, so it’s key to know how to do everything and to be nice to everyone in their path. Solid advice for anyone, in my opinion, but especially pertinent for those entering the field according to Steve.
“Learn how to do everything…and be nice to everyone.”
Our conversation then shifted back to his time with Spamalot when I asked what his favorite part of performing is. He told me a story where he was approached by a fan outside the stage doors after a show—“she told me she had stage 4 cancer, and that those two hours were her respite from the real world.” This, Steve said, represented his favorite part of his job, providing an escape for the audience. We discussed how he deals with the pressure of being the main character in such a well-known story—he never gets to leave the stage during the show—and he informed me that while he is rarely the main focus of the show, his role is so crucial that he has to wear two body microphones on stage. “I never want to contribute to the trickle-down chaos by having a mic failure,” he said, “Spamalot is a crazy enough show on its own.” I pulled on this thread and asked him to describe his favorite moment in the show which is a spoiler that I won’t write in this article, but it involves a powerful moment of self-discovery for King Arthur. Steve noted that discovery of one’s purpose is a main plot-thread that runs through the course of the show, even going so far to state that its the main theme. Spamalot may be a musical comedy filled with wacky antics, but it’s a show with a powerful main lesson.
“Those two hours were her respite from the real world.”
We talked about making Monty Python’s Life of Brian a musical for a minute towards the end of the call before Steve left me with a challenge: to see the show and not enjoy myself. He told me that he had never seen a performance of this show that he didn’t enjoy, which seemed like a ringing endorsement coming from someone so closely affiliated with the show. Challenge accepted, King Arthur, I’ll see you in court (like, a king’s court).