I had the privilege of speaking with Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon a few weeks ago about their show Game of Thrones: The Musical. As a geek girl and musical theatre nerd, this was right up my alley, and I couldn’t wait to discuss this project with them.
A: There isn’t a ton of information on the website. What can you tell me about your show?
SB: Game of Thrones: The Musical is a musical parody romp through season one, book one, of Game of Thrones. We actually have two casts of fourteen people. We have what we call House Lannister and House Targaryen, and one does the 6:00 show and one does the 9:00 show. We basically kind of follow the Ned Stark story, his rise and fall. We also follow the Lannister storyline…incest and fun stuff like that. And then, of course, the Khal Drogo/Daenerys story, our C plot. It’s a great reintroduction to the show, and it’s also great for people who have never seen Game of Thrones, because season one is very heavy. A lot of people haven’t seen Game of Thrones watch our show and go, “It’s funny, I kind of understand it now. I think I’ll watch the show now.”
We performed in Los Angeles for ten weeks and everyone had a great run. The critics enjoyed it; the crowds enjoyed it. There was a lack…there was nothing on a Sunday night on HBO, and we had such success that we’re coming to the kingdom of San Diego to present it to all. So many more Game of Thrones fans will be able to see the show now.
We have twelve original songs and we actually feature George R.R. Martin. He’s one of our cast members in the show. He’s the narrator. He narrates the show and lets you know what’s going on.
SCP: Basically we have a two-level stage, a balcony and a main level, and the entire show he sits in the balcony and just kind of watches the play happen, and once in a while chimes in with his own little stuff.
SB: He sits at his computer, but he doesn’t write one word, because we know how slow he is. He just sits there eating and enjoying his own work.
We poke fun at the musical itself; we poke fun at George. We make references and jokes to future seasons, but it definitely takes you back to the early days of Arya. Arya didn’t have as much to do back in the first season. Sansa was a bit bitchy and all she wanted to do was be queen. John Snow was quite boring. They develop into better characters, but we make fun of what they were like back in season one.
I see the idea came in 2016. I’m wondering since Game of Thrones is pretty intense and has a lot of adult subject matter, what made you decide that this would be a good parody show?
SCP: It’s ripe for parody. It has violence, incest, it has excitement, it has action and adventure; it’s perfect for comedy. All of the stuff that makes Game of Thrones so compelling to watch on HBO translates great into musical theatre comedy. I couldn’t think of a better show to take under the helm of the parody wagon.
BECAUSE it has some very adult subject matter, what kind of parental rating would you give the show?
SB: I would say that if anyone has seen the TV show, they are welcome to come and see our musical. It’s definitely for mature audiences. There’s blood, there’s swearing, there’s some nudity, perhaps, but I’ve had a lot of teenagers come to the show with their parents and I say to the parents, “Have your kids watched the HBO show?” And they say, “Yes.” We’re not as raunchy as HBO, but we’re a little more in your face with the incest and things.
SCP: We head more to the irony and comedy of Game of Thrones, not so much the nudity and the gratuity.
SB: We only have gratuitous puns!
I also noticed that when you ran the show earlier, you were extended. Was that a surprise that you were able to extend the run, and did you get to hold onto the original cast?
SB: We were always hoping that we would do well in our first five weeks. Ticket sales were great and write-ups were great, so we sort of always told the cast that there might be an extension and everyone was very excited to continue. Basically we held the show February, March, April, in Los Angeles, which is pilot season, and a lot of actors book roles or do movie shoots. So, rather than have four or five of these “undecided”, why don’t we have a second cast? There were certain instances where certain cast members couldn’t make a performance because they were doing a video shoot or auditioning or something else popped up, so that’s where we were able to fill in from the other cast.
You can see both shows and it is the same show, but there are different character portrayals, different costumes (because not everyone fits into the same costume), and there are different buttons to different jokes. So, if you see both casts you will be getting a different show, even though it is the same script. There is more to enjoy.
I see that you both wrote it. You’re producing, are you also directing the show?
SCP: I’m Steven Parker and I was the director. Steven Brandon is writer and producer.
SB: Both Stevens wrote the lyrics to the songs, and we have our musical team, married couple Erin Stegeman and Ace Marrero, and they wrote the music itself. Erin helped with some additional lyrics.
SCP: They also served as our music directors for the cast.
SB: And Erin plays Cersei, and Ace plays Khal Drogo in the Targaryen cast. So the musical directors are on stage making sure everyone gets their harmonies correct. You don’t want to piss of Cersei Lannister the musical director; she’ll have your head.
HAHA! That’s true! Do you have a choreographer, or is that someone who is also in the show?
SCP: We do. Our choreographer is a very talented dancer named Jessica Peavy. She lives kind of near the San Diego area. She commuted up to LA every week to teach our actors new stuff, and now her commute is going to be a lot easier going down to San Diego.
While I was looking online, I saw that Alex Lewis is in one of the casts, and so I asked him if he would mind if I spoke to him later about the actor’s perspective, since that’s sort of where I am.
SB: We met Alex Lewis in 2014 when we did Lost: The Musical. That was our first show together that Stephen and I cowrote. We cast Alex as Charlie and then we really wanted him back for Game of Thrones and he is one of our Robb Starks.
Not to get off topic, but as far as the Lost musical, what was the timeline for that show?
SCP: So, Lost: The Musical was all six seasons in one two-hour show. We basically jumped around a bunch. All the flashbacks were told in the first song. The major difference between Lost: The Musical and Game of Thrones: The Musical is that Game of Thrones: The Musical is twelve original songs. Lost: The Musical is thirteen parody songs based on already existing top hits. Instead of “American Pie”, we had “Bye Bye Oceanic 815”. Instead of “Thriller”, we had “Smoke Monster”.
SB: When Charlie died, instead of “Don’t Stop Believing”, they sing, “Charlie, don’t stop ‘buh-reathing.’ Hold onto your breath, Charlie.”
You have two very different things going on there. Was it more difficult to come up with the original songs?
SCP: It was a different challenge. The parody songs were somewhat easier in the music department because all you have to do is change three notes in the soundtrack and you have a legal original song. But, the original music was more creatively gratifying. Where parody is limiting, because you have to base it on existing structures and kind of make it fit for what you need, original songs you can just kind of take liberties with what you want it to be. You can basically shape it into what you need to, rather than working backwards with already existing songs.
SB: Erin and Ace worked with all the actors to try and figure out the best rhythms and methods and notes, and to find people’s ranges. It was pretty easy for Stephen and I to write the lyrics, but Erin and Ace worked hard to figure out the actual music notes.
SCP: The music was a labor of love. They really just pulled it out every day for months to make it perfect.
SB: I’m really proud of our soundtrack; it sounds really gorgeous. It’s such a rock and roll type opera soundtrack and I think it sounds great.
Which character do you think was the most difficult to integrate into musical form?
SCP: The hardest character for me to integrate was probably Jon Snow. If you remember, Jon Snow was disliked by all of his family members in the first season. He was kind of the outcast of the group and in later seasons he formed into the hero that he is in seasons six and seven, but back in the day he was the outcast. He was the one that everyone kind of “crapped on”, so in our play we accentuate that. We have everyone just kind of “crapping on him” the entire show in very good comedy form, so he was very challenging to write compelling songs for, because he’s not a hero back in season one. He’s not the valiant, brave soldier that we see in later seasons. He’s kind of just the dweeb, and so we wrote songs to match that, basically.
Because Game of Thrones is still in production, do you think that you’ll be writing more musicals based on this, or is the current show going to evolve over time?
SCP: We’ve been asked by audience members, “When are you going to do season two? When are you going to do season three?” The answer to that is, “Maybe. Maybe not.” Basically if there’s enough demand and we feel like doing it creatively, there’s definitely a possibility for future seasons to be incorporated.
SB: Theatre ain’t cheap! But, if the demand is there… We’re debuting July 20th; season seven episode one is July 16th. I think we’re going to have to write in a few extra jokes based on what happens in that first episode.
I saw that there is a “Dothraki Love Song”. Are you using any actual Dothraki, or any other languages in the show?
SCP: The running joke in our show is that when Khal Drogo speaks, he only speaks in uggs and grunts, but when he sings he is a lyrical genius. When he sings, he sings in poetic form. He sings in these long, eloquent sentences…and when he speaks, he goes back to uggs and grunts.
SB: And when he sings, he’s definitely a high tenor as opposed to his regular low baritone.
There is another musical about Game of Thrones. What do you think sets yours apart?
SCP: Ours is a complete story. It’s a beginning, middle, and end that falls into the arc of Ned Stark’s character. It’s a fun, complete story. The other musical in its own right is very good, but it was more “sketch”. It was more of all six seasons jumping around doing little vignettes. So, if you want to do a sketch show, they’re a great show. If you want a complete Game of Thrones story, we’re your man.
SB: Like you said, you did musical theatre, and we have sets and costumes and props, and we follow the musical theatre structure. That’s the difference. They developed their show at UCC and they have a cast of six, and they do all the seasons and kind of jump around, whereas we follow the musical theatre guidelines.
SCP: Ours is a full production musical, and theirs is a sketch play with songs.
Watch for Part Two of my interview with Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon to find out who their favorite characters are and who they love to hate. Don’t forget to head to the website to purchase tickets to the show! Performances are July 20th-23rd at both 6PM and 9PM, and tickets range from $30 to $99 for the “Platinum Experience”. Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages for fun additions! Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @amlehr.