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‘Spamalot’ player to return in Park Playhouse musical

Thursday, July 3, 2014
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Steve Raymond made plenty of fans performing multiple roles last summer in the Park Playhouse production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” He’s hoping to do the same this year, but without all the costume changes.

A native of Plymouth, N.H., Raymond will return to Albany’s Washington Park for the second straight summer and play one of 10 characters trying to win a new pickup truck in the 2013 Broadway musical “Hands on a Hard Body.”

Written by Doug Wright with music and lyrics by Amanda Green and Phish member Trey Anastasio, the show opens tonight at 8 and runs through July 26.

“It’s quite funny and there are a lot of comedic moments in the show, but it is honestly a human drama,” said Raymond, who will be heading back for his senior year at Montclair State in New Jersey in the fall. “It’s a test of endurance and keeping your sanity, and the last person standing wins the truck.”

“Hands on a Hard Body” is based on the 1997 documentary film of the same name. Directed by S.R. Bindler, the film told the story of a yearly competition in Longview, Texas, where 24 contestants were pitted against each other to see who could keep their hands on a pickup truck for the longest time.

'Hands on a Hard Body'

WHERE: Park Playhouse, Washington Park, Albany

WHEN: Tuesdays through Sunday, 8 p.m. through July 26

HOW MUCH: Free

MORE INFO: 434-0776, www.parkplayhouse.com

The winner was the person who endured the longest without leaning on the truck or squatting. Each contestant had a five-minute break every 75 minutes and a 15-minute break every six hours.

After its 2012 world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, “Hands on a Hard Body” had a short run on Broadway in the spring of 2013. It had favorable reviews for the most part, and was nominated for three Tony Awards.

“I didn’t see it on Broadway, but some of my friends did and they liked it,” said Raymond. “What I like about my character is that he’s a dreamer. He’s unemployed and he doesn’t have a lot going for him, so it’s important for him to win this truck. He has a dream to become a stunt man, and I have a dream to become a Broadway actor. It’s not that much different.”

Raymond’s dream of performing on the state professionally began at an early age.

“I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was 8,” he said. “I wasn’t much of a sports person so I kind of found an outlet in theater. It let me play pretend, and to pretend playing different and funny characters for a period of time. I always enjoyed being a bit goofy.”

Raymond stood out in last year’s Park Playhouse production of “Spamalot,” playing Prince Herbert, Brother Maynard and the historian who introduces the show as well as others.

“Steve Raymond will have a professional life in the theater,” said Owen Smith, executive director of Park Playhouse. “He’s incredibly talented in my estimation and he will be on Broadway. I was very happy to get him back here for another summer. It was like we had to keep using him before we lose him.”

Smith said Raymond was the perfect kind of actor to play various roles in “Spamalot,” and Raymond said the show is one of his favorites.

“It was the first show I ever saw on Broadway, and I’ve always been a Monty Python fan so I loved having the opportunity to use all kinds of funny accents,” he said. “All that kind of stuff comes naturally to me.”

Michael LoPorto is directing the Park Playhouse production of “Hands on a Hard Body,” while Geoffrey Doig-Marx is the choreographer and Brian Axford the music director.

Also in the cast are Capital Region residents Molly Rose McGrath, Steve Fletcher, Benita Zahn, Joe Phillips and Dashira Cortes.

“To be a part of bringing free theater to a city park and to work with Owen Smith and all of the creative people he has is great fun,” said Raymond.

“They are very catering toward the actors. They make us feel comfortable so it was great to be able to come back for a second summer. To get paid to be an actor; well, there’s nothing like it.”

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or bbuell@dailygazette.com.

 
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