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The last laugh (and there are plenty)

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Arthur Rowan grew tired of introducing himself and hearing the tongue-in-cheek reply "Oh, like Arthur, King of the Britains," a classic reference to the 1974 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Rowan's the one laughing now as he rehearses for a national tour as King Arthur in Monty Python's Spamalot presented by the Valentine Theatre Oct. 13 at the larger capacity Stranahan Theater.

"I'm living the dream," Rowan said recently during a phone interview from a New York studio where he and the cast of Spamalot were rehearsing for the first leg of the national tour opening this weekend in Baltimore.

It's a crazy, hectic schedule performing in a different city every night -- "literally, from the East Coast to the West Coast and parts of Canada," he said. "It's definitely going to come with its share of challenges, but it's a chance to bring a bit of Broadway to places that might not have experienced it."

Spamalot opened on Broadway in March, 2005. It was nominated for several Tony Awards that year and won three: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Mike Nichols), and Best Actress in a Musical (Sara Ramirez). In addition, it won two 2005 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Musical and Outstanding Lyrics. The show closed after 1,575 performances in Jan., 2009.

This national tour is directed by BT McNicholl, Nichols' assistant director on the Broadway production. Written by Eric Idle, Spamalot, is largely based on the movie -- a spoof satirizing the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

"The musical keeps most of the best lines from the movie and adds a layer playfully satirizing Broadway musicals," Rowan said. "No one should feel like they should see the movie to have a wonderful time with the show."

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Rowan guarantees audiences will leave in a better mood than when they walked in the theater. "The plot does take some seemingly random twists and turns in order to get some good laughs in there."

Flying cows, flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits, and a chorus line of Laker girls -- sounds like some serious guffawing is on tap.

Rowan said he and the cast are having a great time rehearsing: "Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the absolute classics of comedy. We're tremendously inspired by it."

This is the veteran performer's first U.S. tour. He has performed in several Washington area theaters and in Virginia. His list of credits includes The Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Octavius in Antony & Cleopatra.

Rowan spent four years working with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as a performer, director, and fight choreographer before moving to New York in January. "I decided it was time to pick up and move to the Big Apple and make a go of it."

Within months he was cast as King Arthur. "It's something I am incredibly grateful for. I am delightfully excited and a little bit nervous," he said.

"Monty Python's Spamalot" includes some mature humor. It will be presented by the Valentine Theatre at 8 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.. Tickets prices range from $39 to $59. Information: 419-381-8851.

Contact Julie Njaim at jnjaim@theblade.com.

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