'Spamalot' takes its final D.C. bows

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

It's easy to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" when the blockbuster Monty Python musical "Spamalot" is in town. The Tony Award winner for Best Musical of 2005 has been mounted in 23 countries around the world. Now the Broadway production returns to bid farewell with a laugh-happy cast that includes two Washington theater veterans.

Arthur Rowan plays -- naturally -- King Arthur, who goes forth to recruit knights for the Round Table followed by his servant banging two coconuts to make the sound of horses' hoofs. A graduate of James Madison High School in Vienna and of William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Rowan launched his acting career locally at the Folger Theatre and WSC Avant Bard. An enthusiast of "all things geek," he was a fan of Monty Python long before being tapped to lead the knights in their quest for the Holy Grail while plagued by killer rabbits and dancing divas.

"It's an enjoyable role but a bit challenging because I'm the one straight man surrounded by a bunch of wackos," Rowan said. "He acts like a monarch but isn't treated like one. That's where the comedy comes in. The show had a wonderful reception at Warner Theatre last year, so coming back to town feels like we're on home turf.

"During the three years the show has been on the road, it's traveled this entire country hitting big cities and small towns like Huntsville, Ala., and Hidalgo, Texas. Wherever we go, people love the show. The cast often flies from place to place, but the sets and crews travel separately. The crews work around the clock taking down the sets in one city, loading them into two trucks and putting them up again in another city the next day."

Onstage
'Monty Python's Spamalot'
» Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
» When: Through Sunday
» Info: $65 to $145; 800-445-3000; 202-628-6161; nationaltheatre.org

Rowan's affinity for the days of yore is reflected in his four years with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim, Pa. He had loved Renaissance fairs growing up, and when he met the casting director, he quickly became involved in acting, directing and as the fight choreographer. Currently, he is one-half of the Renaissance musical duo Rowan and the Rose -- the other half is his fiancee, whom he will marry in September after they perform at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival.

"Our repertoire is the canon of traditional Celtic folk songs heard at many Renaissance performances," he said. "I also write some of our geek folk numbers. I love D.C. as a theater town and hope that people realize this will be the last time they get to see the real Broadway version of 'Spamalot.' In the future, smaller theaters will take it up. It will be interesting to see what they do with it."

Maryland native Adam Grabau has been with the "Spamalot" tour for the past three years. He is responsible for four characters: Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, King Ni and Tim the Enchanter.

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