These days, many of us have experienced the ups and downs of online dating (myself included!), and three women have come together to bring us a musical to celebrate them. Creators Brittany Shrimpton, Rosie Sauvageau and Shannon McDonald will bring their vision to life in Right, Wrong or Bomb! A Dating Musical at the Illusion Theater Jan 28-31 with director Shanan Custer. They took some time to answers a few questions for me, so check them out below then head to thebestmusicalever.com to learn more.
The protagonist Jill (Colleen Sommerville Leeman), professionally successful but socially awkward, finds herself in a state of perpetual singleness. After years of opposition, she decides to join online dating. Jill’s two besties, one living la vida single (Katharine Strom) and the other monogamously content (Stephanie Bertumen), happily offer solicited support and unsolicited advice along the way. Mr. Right (David Beukema), Mr. Wrong (C. Ryan Shipley) and various dating “bombs” make for a comedic search to find true love, especially when Jill’s mother (Debbie Swanson) inserts herself in the fun.
Q. What brought the 3 of you together as a team?
A. Brittany came up with the idea to write a musical about the trials, tribulations and joys of dating in the 21st century after hearing stories from friends and family about online dating disasters. From there, Brittany and Shannon joined forces three years back and gathered stories from different groups of friends in order to develop the plot for what eventually became Right, Wrong or Bomb! A Dating Musical. Rosie joined the team in the summer of 2014 as the composer and lyricist for the show (which was perfect timing as Brittany and Shannon had just completed draft one of the script but hadn’t quite gotten to the music part yet). Rosie brought not just the music to the show, but helped develop the characters so that the show addressed not only the dating disaster stories but the vulnerability that comes with being open to falling in love. Brittany and Shannon met in high school through choir and musical theater. They met Rosie through a mutual friend who knew of Rosie’s composing talent and shared interest of writing a musical.
Q. What inspired you to create this show? Is it based on anyone’s life in particular, or a collective?
A. Definitely the many, many stories from our friends and family (as well as personal dating stories from us) inspired the show. What has been so rewarding is that throughout the creative development process we have held a number of readings with various audiences, and the feedback we consistently get is how relatable the characters and story are to everyone. We’ve all experienced the joys and vulnerabilities that come with putting yourself out there, and it’s been great to hear that so many others feel the same way.
Q. What makes this show stand out from others to qualify it as the best musical ever?
A. Isn’t that such a great website URL? We couldn’t believe it was available! We think this show is great because it is relatable and entertaining. It’s musical comedy! People go to the theater for many reasons, and, as we mentioned on during the twitter conversation hosted by @1girl2cities, we like experiencing stories together in the theater and we like communal laughing. We think the audience will have a great time laughing together and relating to the story of Jill trying to figure out this whole online dating world.
Q. How did you choose the Illusion Theater as a venue?
A. We love the Illusion! Brittany performed there for a Fringe show and we all have seen shows in the space. It’s beautiful and intimate, but also has the proscenium stage that was our dream for our musical debut.
Q. Did you have to do any new “research” in particular to help you write the show?
A. While we had a lot of material to work with from the beginning of this show’s development, we’ve gathered many more stories along the way from people who have heard about the show and wanted to share their own experiences. Some were dating disaster stories but often we hear of successful relationships that began with online profiles. It’s been great to hear about people finding Mrs./Mr. Right, Wrong and learning about the dating bombs that come with it.
Q. Has the script changed a lot since your first draft?
A. YES. It’s amazing how much it’s changed since the first script read through in July 2014. We’ve held numerous table reads at our home and the Playwrights’ Center. At each read-through we’ve followed Liz Lerman Critical Response Process, an incredibly helpful tool for gaining feedback for works-in-progress. Additionally, we have always asked our audience the following questions:
- What in the work resonates with you?
- When were you confused?
- When were you bored?
This feedback helped develop and shape the characters into the stage production we will be presenting.
Q. What challenges are you facing with the show?
A. In project management terms, the three things that affect a project the most are cost, quality and schedule. For us, the biggest challenge has been schedule because we all have full time jobs. Thus, this musical was created on evenings and weekends over the past three years. As the producers and creators of the show, we also wear many hats that require many different types of skills. For example, we had to put the creative development on hold for a couple months as we put together our fundraising campaign. We produced a fundraising video (find it here!), applied and received fiscal sponsorship from Springboard for the Arts, created our website, and raised over $16,500 using GiveMN to produce the show (donations still welcome!). We have many more hats to wear before the show opens, but it’s been a fantastic learning experience and we are excited it is coming together this January!
Q. Is there anything else you want people to know about the show?
A. One focus of the development of this show was to promote women as leaders in the theater community. As we noted on our website, “According to the study Women Count, published by the League of Professional Theatre Women, women accounted for only 28% of off-Broadway playwrights working during the 2013-2014 theater season.”
It’s important to us that this statistic improves and thus we are doing our part to help do so. We are incredibly happy to have Shanan Custer join our team as our mentor and the director for the show, who has herself written and produced several incredible productions. We have already learned a lot from her and are looking forward to learning more as we prepare for opening night!
What: Right, Wrong or Bomb! A Dating Musical
By: Brittany Shrimpton, Rosie Sauvageau and Shannon McDonald
Where: Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis
When: January 28-31
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