Laughter is the best medicine. And no one knows that more than Steve McCoy, who plays King Arthur in the laugh-filled, zany national tour of "Monty Python's Spamalot," playing Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

"It's really a blast and we find people really need to laugh in these trying times," McCoy said by phone from Fort Myers, Fla.

A Manchester-by-the-Sea native, he has been with "Spamalot" for 10 years and loves playing King Arthur in the goofy show.

"King Arthur is the not-too-bright tour guide in to this trip into lunacy, where you meet the craziest people," said McCoy.

Winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical, Spamalot is "lovingly ripped off" from the 1975 movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It features music and lyrics by John DuPrez and lyrics and book by Eric Idle, a member of Monty Python, the British comedy troupe.

The show finds Arthur traveling around England recruiting his Knights of the Round Table. Once in Camelot, God charges them to find the Holy Grail, and they embark on a quest that takes them to strange places with stranger characters from flying cows to killer rabbits. Nothing is sacred in their madcap journey, as they're challenged to keep their heads on straight or die terribly weird deaths.


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McCoy worked with the late, great Mike Nichols, who directed "Spamalot," among dozens of other blockbusters from "The Graduate" to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" to "Charlie Wilson's War" on stage and screen.

"He kept reminding us that it's all about the writing. He told us, 'It's not about you -- it's what's on the page.' So while it looks like we're improvising, we are not. The only time there's any improv is at the end, when we find the Holy Grail in the audience. You never know what's going to happen, and it's a lot of fun interacting with the audience each night. It's really as much fun as you can imagine."

On tour through the end of May, he looks forward to playing the LMA again -- he played in "Spamalot" here and at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester previously.

"People treated us so well there, and I am thrilled to bring the show back and look forward to seeing relatives from Manchester, too," he said. "Everyone should have a blast."

Tickets are $39-$99 at www.lowellauditorium.com or at 978-937-8688 or at the box office on East Merrimack Street.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

In the wings

ISN'T IT ROMANTIC?: Whether you're looking for a little romance this Valentine's weekend or just a few laughs, you'll find both in "First Night," Jack Neary's delicious little rom-com on stage at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, Feb. 14-17. The play, starring John Manning and Jocelyn Duford, and directed by Neary, is about love and second chances. It has been around since the 1980s, when it had its premiere at the MRT in Lowell. But its charm is ever-lasting. Performances Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets $19-$23 in advance, $27 at the door. If you've been together for 50 or more years, the theater is offering a 2-for-1 deal. Attend Sunday's show to be recognized. Call 978-922-6313 or visit www.thelarcom.org.

FEMME FILM FEST: Image Theater's Jerry Bisantz and Ann Garvin are shaking things up this year. Instead of presenting plays by female playwrights, they're turning to female filmmakers with the Femme Film Fest, a festival of films, 20-minutes or shorter in length by female filmmakers, on May 3-4 at the Parker Gallery in the Whistler House Museum of Art, 243 Worthen St., Lowell. "We'll set up a screen, use our new projector and show original, short films by women filmmakers," said Bisantz. March 21 is the deadline for submissions, which can be any subject -- fiction, documentary, animated. Bisantz is spreading the word to college film schools in the region and Lowell Telecommunications Corp. is helping get the word out. No fee to enter. There will be prizes for the top three audience picks. "The more submissions, the more fun," said Bisantz. Send finished DVDs to Image Theater, 68 Oakland St., Lowell, MA 01851, or to Image's Drop Box site at www.dropbox.com/request/8h86s9DpWw65sQYFxTOM. Visit www.imagetheater.com for more info.

ICE TIME: Like clockwork, Disney on Ice arrives along with February School Vacation Week. "Mickey's Search Party," this year's edition, plays the TD Garden in Boston, Feb. 15-24. The new adventure features Mickey and company following Captain Hook's treasure map and looking for clues in the search for Tinker Bell. Favorite characters including Elsa from Frozen, Moana and Belle from Beauty and The Beast show up. And there are others from "Aladdin," "Toy Story," "The Little Mermaid" and "Coco" joining the search. For tickets, visit www.gardenboxoffice.com.