Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You will soon be streaming an online workshop of your new musical, Gideon and the Blundersnorp. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the production’s premise?
Michael Gordon Shapiro: This is a family-friendly musical, one hour in duration, that tries to channel the spirit of '70s/'80s YA fantasy novels into musical theatre form. The story concerns a stableboy in a medieval-ish society who wants to join the Royal Cavaliers, despite his belonging to the wrong social class. He becomes entangled in a mission to defeat a dangerous monster, the Blundersnorp of the title. Along the way, he’s waylaid by bandits and joins forces with a displaced young noblewoman named Alanna. The show’s theme concerns the importance of personal virtue, rather than inherited social status.
The musical was slated to premiere at the Hollywood Fringe this past summer, but the Coronavirus put a stop to those plans. We pivoted and created a recorded-at-home online production. It’s technically a movie musical, but more in the spirit of old radio serials in the way that it demands imagination from the audience.
BD: You have a tremendous cast and crew involved with the production, and all are working together virtually to overcome the production limitations caused by the impact of COVID-19. What can you share with us about the creative process of working with the team, especially as it relates to the virtual presentation?
MGS: Creating a musical via a Zoom conference means that the production is simultaneously high-tech and lo-tech. We used this amazing software that connected people around the country, then asked them to swing plastic swords in their living rooms. The result was unexpectedly fun; when there’s no scenery or even a stage, all that’s left is raw make-believe.
We recorded dialogue as a group in order preserve the timing and collaborative energy, then had the cast self-record their songs as both audio and video. Our brilliant editor stitched everything together to create an experience something halfway between cinema and theater.
BD: There will also be a live Q&A with the team following the show. What can audiences anticipate in terms of this supplemental experience?
MGS: We’ve got a wonderfully varied cast, including performers drawn from my previous musical (The Bully Problem), as well as new collaborators who are veterans of major Broadway and touring productions. They’re all warm and fun people, and I think audience members will find their perspectives very interesting.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Gideon and the Blundersnorp’s story will connect with and impact viewers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MGS: Gideon’s story is meant to be accessible to young audiences, but also has a layer that grownups will appreciate. I think most people can connect to the theme of defying social expectations and will enjoy both Gideon’s never-say-die attitude, as well as Alanna’s more mature and reflective arc. As for my motivations, I wanted to create something exciting and inspiring for a stressful time, reminding us that excitement and adventure are still waiting for us, even now.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Gideon and the Blundersnorp?
MGS: Since this is a workshop production, it’s entirely free!
Attendance is limited, so to register (and be guaranteed a spot in the audience), head over to http://nowplaying.gideonmusical.com.
General information about the show can be found at www.gideonmusical.com.
Thanks so much for the chance to talk about a musical that’s near and dear to my heart.