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    Behind the Scenes

    Norwell theater lines up some big shows for 2013

    Artistic directors (from left) Zoe Bradford, Michael Joseph, Jordie Saucerman.
    The Company Theatre
    Artistic directors (from left) Zoe Bradford, Michael Joseph, Jordie Saucerman.

    Trailer-park trash, Chicago hoofers, and the Knights Who Say Ni! are all part of next year’s season planned by the Company Theatre, an award-winning ensemble currently performing “Annie” on its Norwell stage.

    Artistic directors Zoe Bradford, Michael Joseph, and Jordie Saucerman have put together a lineup featuring two regional premieres of popular Broadway hits, and their production of another big musical, “Chicago,” familiar to many from its 2002 film version.

    “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” will make its premiere in February. Around here, trailer parks are “mobile home developments,” but the musical’s bare-bones Southern setting is best described as “pink flamingos on the tar,” Bradford said last week.


    The show’s New York opening seven years ago sent reviewers scrambling for pop culture metaphors. The New York Sun said; “ ‘South Park’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives’ in this big-hearted musical comedy with a cheeky script and an infectious score.”

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    While the play’s fictional world may be inhabited by “trailer-park trash,” its songs are well-written country music and its characters “all have a heart,” said Bradford. The roles include a “motorcycle rebel guy,” his trashy girlfriend, and an agoraphobic woman afraid to leave her trailer.

    There are no shrinking violets in “Chicago,” whose lead characters include two women on trial for killing their no-good men, a lawyer who specializes in turning scandal into fame and fortune, and a reporter who plays on the public’s sentimentality.

    Even if you’ve seen the Oscar-winning film version, “you haven’t seen the full Chicago,” said Joseph. The live stage production allows for “the full musical numbers” that the movie interrupts, and a fuller development of its characters, he said.

    It’s a musical the Company Theatre has been eager to stage for years. Given its record-setting Broadway run and busy touring company, the show has been an elusive catch for regional ensembles, he said.


    “We’ve been trying to get the rights for 12 years,” Bradford said. “It’s a quintessential score. The choreographer is dying to get her hands on it. . . . It’s a very hot show; the music is infectious.”

    As for staging, it’s “a black-box show,” requiring an uncluttered stage rather than a lot of props and elaborate sets, ­Joseph said.

    At the other end of the spectrum, “Spamalot,” a medieval farce based primarily on the gags in the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” calls for “a lot of heavy costumes, a lot of tech,” and a cast of 25 to 30.  

    But the gain is worth the pain, Joseph said of the regional premiere that will open in Norwell next summer.

    “It’s really the most hysterical play I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I don’t think an audience ever laughed harder — all those famous hit skits from Monty Python slapped together.”


    The show’s creator, original Monty Python member Eric Idle, said in a 2004 announcement on the play’s development that its title is from a line in “Grail” that goes, “We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot.”

    That mocking moniker also parodies the title of the musical “Camelot,” which evoked the idealism of King Arthur’s court. There’s not a lot of idealism in “Spamalot” skits, such as the riding coconuts and the fish-slap dance drawn from the comedy team’s TV series and movies. “But you don’t have to be a Monty Python fan to get it,” Joseph said.

    “It’s created a new audience,” Bradford agreed, noting her son saw it with a school group and is now part of a new generation of Python fans.

    The Company Theatre
    Actor Scott Wahle, center, stars in "Paragon Park."

    The comedy thriller “Deathtrap,” about a pair of playwrights prepared to go to any lengths for a hit show, also had a long run on Broadway. “Brilliantly written” by Ira Levin, “the play’s twists and turns weave in and out in a way you don’t expect,” Bradford said. “You’re in for a thrill ride.”

    “It’s a mind-twister,” Joseph agreed. The play depends on a small cast, with just five actors, and requires for its two male leads “very clever men who can hold the audience in the palms of their hands.”

    Next year’s holiday season production, “A Christmas ­Carol,” is a biennial tradition at the Company Theatre, and draws a faithful audience that snaps up tickets, the artistic directors said.

    “We used to do it every year,” Joseph said. “People were angry when we don’t have it.”

    The Charles Dickens tale is a ghost story that lends itself to special effects. “We add new elements every year,” he said.

    The company also embraces the story’s Victorian London setting, Bradford said. “We put in all the period effects,” she said, “waistcoats, long dresses, choir boys, street urchins, a cast of 50, and usually a dog.”

    With dogs or without, the two-legged creatures on the stage of the Company Theatre promise to give audiences a good time, Bradford said. “People like to have fun.”

    Robert Knox can be reached at