Theatre Under The Stars
Sarofim Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
800 Bagby St
The Knights of the Round Table are back in Houston, along with Guinevere, Sir Robin, the Laker Girls, a shrubbery, and one homicidal rabbit. Yes, it’s musical season in our fair city—otherwise known as summer—when organizations like Theatre Under the Stars and Broadway Houston pack as many Broadway-tested and audience-approved marquee shows as possible into the months between the end of one classical music season and the beginning of the next. Consider the musicals after-dinner snacks following the diet of German operas and Russian symphonies on which Houston audiences have been dining for the past year.
First up on the musical calendar is Spamalot, which premiered on Broadway in 2005 to rave reviews and has been in the theater world’s version of syndication ever since, with touring productions traveling the world in search of unconquered new audiences. Theatre Under the Stars gave the musical its Houston premiere in 2007, and has brought it back this summer for what is sure to be another sold-out run. Jonathan Hammond and Janine DiVita were on a short dinner break before tonight’s dress rehearsal when we caught up with them. They sounded confident in the production, although Hammond, who plays characters ranging from a warlock to the knight who says “Ni!”, admitted that the costumes have been presenting some difficulties.
“I have so many changes because I play so many characters,” Hammond said. “And all the costumes are humongous and really unwieldy—it’s like wearing furniture.” DiVita, who plays the Lady of the Lake, only has to wear one costume, but the musical presents her with challenges of another sort. “I sing my brains out in this show, which is exhilarating and challenging and fun,” she said. “The range of singing goes from opera to Whitney Houston to Barbara Streisand to Liza Minnelli.” Whew!
Like most of the cast (with the exception of a few local actors), Hammond and DiVita live in New York and will be traveling back and forth to Houston during the production. Hammond is better known for drama than for musicals, having performed Shakespeare and Shaw in New York. Fortunately, unlike DiVita, Hammond gets to speak most of his lines.
“My role was originally created by Hank Azaria,” Hammond said. “He isn’t much of a singer.”