James Monroe Iglehart on Leading Back-to-Back Musicals With ‘A Wonderful World’ and ‘Spamalot’

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Photo Source: Courtesy James Monroe Iglehart

In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

James Monroe Iglehart is the definition of booked and busy. The Tony winner is currently portraying jazz legend Louis Armstrong in Aurin Squire’s new musical “A Wonderful World,” which ran from Oct. 1–8 in New Orleans and is playing in Chicago through Oct. 29. After Iglehart takes his final bow as Armstrong, he’ll head to New York to take on the role of King Arthur in the Broadway revival of Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s “Spamalot,” which begins previews on Oct. 31 ahead of a Nov. 16 opening.

“The companies got together and worked out a crazy schedule where I basically have no days off for the rest of my life,” Iglehart says with a laugh. “What happens is: I’m in Chicago, I do the shows, I fly out, I go to rehearsal [for ‘Spamalot’], I rehearse for a couple of days. Then I get back on the plane, fly back out to Chicago, do my show—back and forth.” 

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Iglehart discusses what it takes to star in back-to-back musicals—and why he’ll never take that opportunity for granted. 

Even when he’s at his busiest, Iglehart never forgets his roots. 

“I never want to get too big for my britches. I never want to think, That’s right; I deserve this. I’m booked all the time. I want to appreciate this time, because there were moments where I wasn’t booked at all and no one knew who I was. And everybody mispronounced my name and called me ‘Eaglehart,’ and I would have to correct them. I remember correcting a lady and saying, ‘No, it’s Iglehart,’ and she looked me dead in my face and said, ‘Are you sure?’ How are you going to ask me if I’m sure about how to say my own name? So I definitely do think about those days quite often to remind myself how awesome this time is.”

James Monroe Iglehart and the cast of “Spamalot”

James Monroe Iglehart and the cast of “Spamalot” Credit: Jeremy Daniel

Going back and forth between playing Louis Armstrong and King Arthur is a true juggling act. 

“It’s a different mental process; it’s a different mental thing I need to get into for ‘Spamalot’ as opposed to Louis. With Louis, because of how taxing it is, I have to really stay focused and stay quiet so I can do it. With ‘Spamalot,’ it really is about the camaraderie. It really is about going around and playing with people and having fun; so when we get onstage, it’s like recess.”

He never wants to lose perspective about what acting means to him.

“We get to play for a living. That’s what we do. No disrespect to our profession—I love my profession. But we’re not rocket scientists here; we’re not curing cancer…. A joke can change somebody’s mind because they see something they recognize and were too afraid to say, but they laugh at it in a theater and think, Oh, maybe I don’t think that way. 

But I also try not to take myself too seriously and think, Oh, my God, I am an actor, and what I do changes the world. Man, come on. We do musical theater. That’s what we do. So I still enjoy the simplicity of that entertainment and excitement of being that kid who saw a show, and now I get to do it. If I keep that childlike excitement about the fact that I get paid to do recess for a living, I’m good.”

Subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Iglehart: