Steve McCoy has been in a wide variety of roles in traditional Broadway shows, including 42nd Street and The Will Rogers Follies. In his 20s, he was a go-to Curly in Oklahoma!, and his most recent role was starring in Man of La Mancha.
His latest show, to borrow a phrase from the creators of its source material, is something completely different.
He's playing Arthur, King of the Britons, in the national tour of Monty Python's Spamalot, which has five performances this weekend at the Lexington Opera House.
"It is different in that you're in this big comedy, but Arthur doesn't have most of the comedy," McCoy said during a tour stop in St. Louis. "I'm on the stage for literally most of the two hours and 10 minutes of the show. I am the person who brings you to visit these crazy people."
Anyone who has seen — lo, can recite from memory — the classic 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, knows that there are a lot of crazy characters in the fractured tale of Arthur and his knights' quest for the Grail.
There are the taunting guards at the French castle; the Black Knight, who continues fighting despite the loss of most of his limbs; the killer rabbit; the man who's not dead; the knights who say "Ni;" and many, many others.
McCoy said he can tell immediately whether the audience at a Spamalot performance is filled with Python fans: "They start laughing at the jokes before we can get them out. Some of them come dressed in costumes, like the Black Knight."
Python as a whole, and The Holy Grail in particular, command legions of fans, but McCoy, 45, admitted that he didn't get it the first time around.
"I remember watching it flipping through the channels one night and thinking, 'This is silly; I wouldn't like this,'" McCoy said of the first time he glimpsed the movie in his 20s. "I didn't take the time to really watch it and see what it was. I thought it was all stupid sight gags. I didn't realize it was wordy, English wordy humor, and I love stuff like that."
Spamalot on Broadway won him over. And last year, he found himself as the leading man in the show.
It's completely different not just in terms of the kind of material it is but in the approach the actors take to it.
"Our director constantly told us, There is only one way to do this, and there is no room for interpretation,'" McCoy said. "Usually actors love to create their own character and do their own thing. But ... there's only one way to do it, and that's the way it's going to be funny."
People in the audience don't have to be Python devotees to enjoy the show, McCoy said, because in addition to telling the movie's story, there is a whole subtext of spoofing musicals.
Whether it's appealing to fans of musicals or comedy, McCoy said, he is having a blast with the show: "Never in my life have I been in a show where the audience is so happy at the end, myself included."