“I’m not really a singer and I’m not a dancer,” says Michael Urie. “So to keep getting these chances to be in musicals — I’m fooling somebody. And I’ve got to keep fooling them, because I love being in musicals so much. It’s always delightful to do a musical, even though it’s so much work and I might not survive it. It’s just so infectious. It’s so fun.”
It’s a Saturday afternoon, and Urie is calling in on Zoom from a rehearsal hall’s cluttered storage room. He’s taking a break from the breakneck rehearsal schedule for the Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, which opens this weekend in the Eisenhower for a two-week run.
It’s a brutal schedule — two grueling weeks — for a production with a short (but sweet) run. Urie, and his fellow castmates, endure it for the love of creating great musical theater. There hasn’t been a miss yet since Broadway Center Stage made its debut in 2018 with Raul Esparza in Chess. Urie’s last BCS came at the tail end of that season in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His onstage antics as foil Bud Frump repeatedly brought the house down. Expect even more laughs from Spamalot.
“It’s just so much silliness,” he says between bites of a salad. “Everyone is so fit and bouncing off the walls and sharp and funny. It’s so chaotic. You should see our rehearsal room. There are props everywhere — rubber chickens and pink poodles and giant grails and tiny grails. It’s just wild.”
Monty Python’s Spamalot was adapted for the stage in 2004 by the British comedy troupe’s Eric Idle, based largely on their zany 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The musical — complete with killer rabbits and Knights who say “Ni” — warps the story of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail into a madcap farce of ridiculous proportions. Urie was tapped for the role of Sir Robin, originally played by Idle in the movie.
“I’m surrounded by the greatest musical theater performers on Broadway — and specifically the greatest musical comedy performers on Broadway,” he says of his co-stars. “Between Rob McClure, Alex Brightman, Leslie Kritzer, James Monroe Iglehart — this is a murderers row, and those are just the principles. The entire company is just so, so good.”
Urie is one of those rare, gifted acting forces that easily traverses both stage and screen. He gained national recognition through his iconic turn as Marc St. James on Ugly Betty. More recently, he’s been featured in Apple TV+’s critical hit Shrinking, and was in D.C. just last December at The Shakespeare Theatre, starring alongside husband Ryan Spahn, in the wry, witty comedy Jane Anger, which had a few Pythonesque touches of its own.
“When I’m in a musical, I’m like, ‘Ah, I just want to do musicals — I want to be in musicals forever!’ he laughs. “Then, when I’m shooting a movie, I think, ‘Oh, movies are so cool, movies are amazing, I just wanted to make movies!’ It’s not lost on me how lucky I am that I’m able to jump from medium to medium like this.”
Our conversation eventually turns to the Right’s aggressive attacks on LGBTQ culture, especially drag queens and the transgender community.
“I hope that culture and art and the social activism of society overwhelms politics,” he says. “Now that queer content is so celebratory — and with Drag Race a worldwide phenomenon — I think that must make them crazy. They don’t like how happy we are.
“Again, it’s never really about us,” he continues. “It’s about themselves — they’re just looking for an enemy. And now it’s the queer people and trans people and drag queens. It’s such a bummer because…so many people have to be so brave to come out as gay or trans. If they’re a drag queen, and their calling is to be a performer that way, and somebody’s telling them not to [perform], that they’re a groomer — it’s so very cruel.
“The law is the scary part — what they could do with the laws. It just doesn’t feel like it’s actually what anybody really wants. Once again, the people who are making the decisions on the Right are completely out of touch with what the people want.”
Monty Python’s Spamalot runs through May 21 in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $69 to $325. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!