Grab your coconuts and mount your imaginary steed as Monty Python’s Spamalot catapults into Sunderland this week. Katy Wheeler speaks to Joe Pasquale about being King Arthur.
He proved a right royal hoot in the West End, now Joe Pasquale is bringing his interpretation of King Arthur to Wearside.
He’s leading the charge in a new production of Spamalot which is galloping into the Sunderland Empire later this month.
Comedian Joe is once again donning the king’s crown after a successful West End run last summer of the musical which lovingly rips off the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Original Python member Eric Idle has steered the production, writing the book, as well as co-creating the score.
Joe says it’s a dream come true to breathe new life into words penned by a comedy legend.
There’s so many iconic scenes that I look forward to in the show, the Black Knight scene where I chop off his arms and legs, the killer rabbit.Joe Pasquale
“I loved my time as King Arthur in the West End production. I was very excited to have been asked to return for the new UK tour,” he said. “It’s great being back on my invisible horse as we search the land for The Holy Grail. It’s such an iconic British comedy, it was the first alternative comedy. In 1975, when Holy Grail came out I was 13 and it was hugely influential. So to be going out and doing the Eric Idle words is a dream come true.”
Joe Pasquale originally won the part of King Arthur through a unique casting process. Bonnie Langford and Joe had both appeared in ITV1’s Dancing on Ice and starred together in Pirates of Penzance, so she contacted him on Twitter when she was playing The Lady of The Lake, invited him to see her in the show and suggested to the producers that he’d be a great King Arthur.
This time around he will be joined on stage by his son Joe Tracini, most famous for playing Dennis Savage in Hollyoaks, who will be playing the role of Patsy, taking over from Todd Carty next week.
“It’s the first time we’ll have done something like this together,” he said. It will be lovely, but we won’t be sharing a room on tour. I lived with him for long enough.”
The musical tells the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and features a bevy of beautiful showgirls, witch burnings, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and French people.
The score includes He Is Not Dead Yet, Knights of the Round Table, Find Your Grail and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
Eric Idle says of the show: “Spamalot is fun. The new production is funnier, it’s more like a Python show.
“There are new costumes and new sets and a new director (Christopher Luscombe), so it’s just got a whole different spirit to it.”
Joe says it’s great fun to be part of: “There’s so many iconic scenes that I look forward to in the show, the Black Knight scene where I chop off his arms and legs, the killer rabbit. It’s also got a wonderful score, which I think people forget. Musically, it can stand up there with other West End shows.
“We really encourage audience participation, there’s so many fans who come along and quote the show. It’s got such a cult following, it’s quite a pressure, you want to do the script justice. It changes on a weekly basis, we have topical things in there, like Mary Berry. It keeps it fresh, but everything gets put past the director, it’s not like we go on stage and ad lib. We get a great reaction from the crowd, everyone loves it. They come away elated.”
Joe’s had a varied career. As well as performing stand up tours for 20 years, he’s voiced characters for Hollywood movies Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Horton Hears A Who! and has been crowned King of the Jungle in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here in 2004 and become a mainstay of the British pantomime season.
“I enjoy theatre, but I enjoy just doing decent work, whatever it is, whether it be stand up, voice over, panto or theatre, I like the diversity,” he said. “I never thought I’d be in a West End show when I got into stand up, but I just like getting on stage and showing off.”
He’ll be returning to Sunderland after visiting many times over the course of his career.
“I always say the further north, the better the audience for comedy,” he said. “Down south they sit there are say ‘oh, that’s funny. But up north they actually laugh.”
Spamalot opens tonight (Monday) at the Empire at 7.30pm and runs every evening until Saturday, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. For tickets, visit the Sunderland Empire booking site.