By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – After Gary Swanson of Hudson works full-time as a senior personal financial representative at the Westborough branch of Central One Federal Credit Union, he frequently travels to Sturbridge for play rehearsals or performances. He’s now rehearsing the lead role of King Arthur in the musical comedy “Monty Python’s Spamalot” to be presented June 3 through 26, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., at Stageloft Repertory Theater in Sturbridge.
“It’s a long drive to Sturbridge from Hudson,” he acknowledged. “I go there mainly because I like the shows that the artistic director, Christine Taylor, has been choosing. The shows are really entertaining and fun to do.”
Swanson began performing while studying at Christ King and St. Michael’s schools, then Hudson Catholic High where he graduated in 1977. Playing sousaphone with the Hudson CYO Royal Jades Band, his schedule became even busier during summer breaks.
“It was tough to take vacations because you were in a band competition every weekend,” he noted. “You struck up close friendships. Even girlfriends had to be in the band – otherwise you’d never see them.”
Swanson’s musical influence started much earlier with his father, a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
“I remember being very young and seeing him sing in shows,” Swanson recalled. “I was always surrounded by that form of music. When I was stationed in the Air Force in Montana, there wasn’t a lot to do, but they had a local barbershop chapter. I started singing myself and enjoyed it.”
His involvement with barbershop quartet music led to his introduction to community theater. In 2001, he sang in “My Fair Lady” at JEMS Theatre in West Boylston.
“That’s when I got the theater bug,” he said. “All of a sudden as an adult I got to play again. I like all the hard work of everyone pulling for that same goal of a good production.”
Swanson continued performing with community theater groups including Calliope Productions in Boylston, Vanilla Box Productions in Boylston, Westborough Players Club and Worcester County Light Opera Company.
After attending Stageloft Repertory Theater as an audience member, he was cast in a lead role in the group’s production of the drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 2014. In June 2015, he returned to Stageloft displaying his musical-comedy skills as Gomez in “The Addams Family Musical.” Three months later, he performed at Stageloft in the comedy “Sex Please, We’re Sixty” in a role with a nickname as provocative as the play’s title.
“You don’t turn down a role named Bud the Stud,” he said with a laugh.
A longtime Monty Python fan, Swanson was particularly excited when Stageloft announced its upcoming “Spamalot” production.
“As a kid I started watching ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ on PBS,” he relayed. “Then I went to see the films with my friends and we enjoyed them.”
In between his day job and “Spamalot” rehearsals, Swanson also performed three shows weekly at Stageloft in a three-week run of the comedy “Nana’s Naughty Knickers.”
“It’s a tough juggling act, but you make time if it’s something important to you,” he said.
Now, it’s important for Swanson to focus on “Spamalot.” The musical tells the comical tale of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail.
“King Arthur wants to create a band of knights, but he surrounds himself with whoever he can find – it’s not like he chooses the best of the best,” Swanson explained. “I love the comedy of him taking whoever he gets to join, just to have a band of knights to command. The British humor makes me laugh.”
For ticket information and reservations, call 508-347-9005 or visit Stageloft.org.