Rock River Repertory to present 'Spamalot'

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Dennis Hines | August 7, 2013

 EDGERTON — Killer rabbits, a legless knight and the search for the Holy Grail are just some of the things that will be featured in a local theater group's first-ever production.

The recently formed Rock River Repertory Theatre group will present “Spamalot” Aug. 9-18 at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center. “Spamalot” is a musical loosely based on the cult classic “Monty Phython and the Holy Grail.”

Jenna Gresens, president of Rock River Repertory Theatre, said she and other members of the theater  board, Penny Hazeltine and Milissa Rick, have been planning to establish a theater group in Edgerton for several years.

“In Edgerton, we have this beautiful (performing arts center), and it's kind of a natural fit,” Gresens said.

James Tropp, who is directing “Spamalot,” said he feels now is a great time to form a theater group in Edgerton.

“My brother, Paul, is a coordinator of the performing arts facility. The opportunity presented itself,” Tropp said. “Jenna is from Edgerton and had an idea. We talked about it for a long time. It's not something we just decided to do, but Edgerton doesn't have a theater group and it's about time they got one. It has this beautiful  facility. Why not?”

The theater group has several other productions planned for the future, including “Secret Garden: The Musical” next January and “Jesus Christ Superstar” next April. Tropp said the group plans to present different types of plays in the upcoming years.

“The goal is to not do straight musicals,” Tropp said. “We want to do other things to attract more people.”

Gresens said the theater productions will help attract more visitors to the community.

“Edgerton has a very heavy summer camp tourist population, and that's definitely in our plans, too, to try to provide them with some alternative entertainment sources,” Gresens said.

Tropp said the theater group has received a lot of support from the community and the Edgerton School District, because the performing arts center is located next to the high school.

“It's been well received so far, I think people are very excited,” Tropp said. “Even when I come to pick up the keys to the theater, the lady in the (high school's) administrative office gave me her personal cell phone number and said 'If you have any problems, you can give me a call.' It's been a real nice welcoming from a lot of people.”

Tropp and Gresens have many years of theater experience.

Tropp has been involved with theater for about 25 years and has directed over 80 musicals, including “West Side Story,” “Miss Saigon,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Rent,” “Next to Normal” and “Into the Woods.” He has received six Tommy Awards from the Overture Center of the Performing Arts for his work on local high school productions.

“I went to school for (theater). I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. I started when I was in elementary school,” Tropp said. “I started directing when I was about 24 years old, and I did some directing in college.”

Tropp said he enjoys directing and working with actors to help develop a quality production.

“Theater is a collaborative art. You have a director, but a director can't do his job without all the other elements including costumes and lighting,” Tropp said. “But on top of that, you have all the other actors. It's the only art out there that's so collaborative. It relies on every single element that's around it. That's what attracts me to it, the sense of achievement at the end. It's just seeing the final thing up on stage. I call it the final painting.”

Gresens said many local actors enjoy having the opportunity to work with Tropp.

“(The theater group) wouldn't of happened if people didn't show up for the auditions,” Gresens said. “Actors have directors they enjoy working with, and actors show up because they want the opportunity to work with Jim Tropp.”

Gresens has been involved in theater since her childhood and has performed in several local productions.

“There's something special about creating something from visions and ideas and bringing together other people to bring joy to others, and that's what it's about,” Gresen said.

“Spamalot” will be performed at 8 p.m. Aug. 9, 10, 16 and 17 and 4 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center, 200 Elm High Drive.

Admission is $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and students and $15 on opening night.

Tickets can be purchased at Edgerton Pharmacy, by going to the website or an hour before each performance at the performing arts center.

 'A zany musical'

Although the audience may be familiar with the story from its film version, “Spamalot” has been adapted for the stage.

“There's a difference in the story, but the real funny stuff that everybody remembers — like the black knight, the killer rabbits — that's all in the musical,” said Director James Tropp. “They really adjusted the story for the stage. The movie was about the search for the Holy Grail. This is about that also, but this has a little side story in it. They have to put on a Broadway musical and things like that, which is kind of funny.”

Auditions were held in May and rehearsals began in July. The cast features actors from communities throughout the area, including Edgerton, Janesville, Milton, Madison and Milwaukee.

“This is a very zany musical. It's very loose,” Tropp said. “It relies on the actors and their ability to do comedy. The fun thing about this show is that every single actor knows Monty Python, and they get it. We have a lot of actors who haven't been on stage for a while that came out of the woodwork to be in this show.”

Besides the humor, Tropp said audiences will enjoy the music and dance numbers.

“I think (audiences) are going to like all aspects of it,” Tropp said. “You don't have to think to come watch this ... This is a really strong tap show with a lot of tap dancing, and we have a really good ensemble for this show.”

Jenna Gresens, president of Rock River Repertory Theatre, said “Spamalot” is an appropriate play for the theater group's first production.

“A lot of other shows that are being performed right now are dramatic, and it's fun to have a comedy,” Gresens said. “It's not heavy subject matter at all.”

“Spamalot” has won several Tony Awards, including  best musical in 2005.

“It's a very award-winning show,” Tropp said.

~ Dennis Hines




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