“If you trust in your song/Keep your eyes on the goal/Then the prize you won’t fail/That’s your grail.” — Lady of the Lake, “Find Your Grail,” Monty Python’s Spamalot
Instead of taking an internship the summer between her junior and senior years in college, Caroline Bowman decided to go to New York. “I made a pact to myself that I would go to any [audition] I was right for,” Bowman says. She auditioned for the role of Carmen Diaz in FAME—The Musical and Rizzo in Grease.
“I ended up booking both jobs — which was awesome — but it put me in a bit of a pickle,” she says. FAME was scheduled to tour China for three months, followed by a one-month engagement of Grease — in Istanbul, Turkey. There was no way she’d be able to start her senior year at Penn State University on time.
Luckily, she was able to work out a way she could miss a little school and graduate on time.
In China, she found that audiences followed a particular protocol. “They were very quiet during the show,” Bowman explains. “But at the end, they just erupted.” Every week, the show traveled to a new city. The highlight was Beijing, Bowman says, and seeing the Great Wall of China.
A few days after graduating, Bowman flew to Turkey. The theater in Istanbul was an outdoor arena that doubled as a concert venue. “One night they tore down our set and Rihanna came in and performed on our stage,” Bowman remembers. From the stage, she could see the moon and its reflection on the Bosphorus, the body of water that separates Europe from Asia.
Less than a year out of college, Bowman is on the road again. This time she’s in the national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot.
“It’s so cool seeing all these different theaters and how beautiful they are,” Bowman says. “We performed at the St. Louis Fox and it was gorgeous.… I’m excited to come to the Fox in Atlanta.”
Bowman plays the Lady of the Lake, King Arthur’s spiritual guardian, a woman with her own agenda. “She is this fabulous diva who shows up to help King Arthur,” Bowman says of her character. “She has a lot of power because she knows everything that’s going to happen and where the grail is. And one of her goals is to get King Arthur to marry her.”
Although she knew of the Monty Python comedy troupe before joining Spamalot, she didn’t much care for the style. But her love of the show has transformed her into a big fan.
“It’s kind of brilliant how simple the humor is,” she says. “People leave the show whistling and singing and feeling good. I think that’s what people want in their lives right now. I think that’s one of the reasons why the show is so successful.”
“Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot opened on Broadway in 2005. Directed by Mike Nichols, it received 14 Tony Award nominations and won three, including Tony Award for Best Musical. Its initial run grossed more than $175 million dollars, played more than 1,500 performances and was seen by more than two million people.
Bowman may not be a diva in real life, but she relishes her time onstage. And the Lady of the Lake does get one highly theatrical musical theater moment: a solo number in a spotlight. “It’s nothing but me and my vocals,” she says. “Every time I walk out on that stage, I get to make it mine. It’s empowering, and I feel like I’ll come out of this role with a new sense of confidence and power in what I have to offer.”
The original Lady of the Lake, Sara Ramírez, won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and went on to play the role of Callie Torres on “Grey’s Anatomy.” No one knows where Bowman will go from here. But as young and driven as she is, there’s little doubt that she’ll have many more chances to shine.
Monty Python’s Spamalot plays the Fabulous Fox Theatre June 3-5.