February 14, 2020, will mark the world premiere of the hysterical live stage parody Law & Order: The Musical!
Having never watched an episode of Law & Order myself, I can attest that this musical can be enjoyed by all -- not only Law & Order fans -- but it is extra funny for those that are familiar.
Covering social issues like unjust justice and changes of cultural norms throughout the years, Law & Order: The Musical! never forgets it's a comedy. And the musical composition can rival that of tried and true musicals past and present.
Speaking with Ilyse and Jeremy about the production and the process reminds me not only why we do this crazy thing called theatre, but what an obsessive love of television can lead to artistically.
But I'll let them explain the rest for you..
Where is your obsession with Law & Order sourced from?
Ilyse Mimoun: When I was a kid, anytime I was sick and stayed home from school, my mom put on old black and white episodes of Perry Mason. I have a Pavlovian association between legal dramas and comfort.
In my twenties, I watched Law & Order obsessively. I know every single episode of the original series. There’s something about the way the topics are always stimulating yet the formula is so soothing -- it lulls me into a very pleasant complacency.
Jeremy, do you hold the same obsession with Law & Order that Ilyse does?
Jeremy Adelman: Law & Order? It sounds familiar. Is that on Hulu? I should check it out, huh?
Ilyse: No! But my short film #metoogumshoe is a parody of classic noir film. You can watch it on Vimeo or my website. So much incredible film and TV has been problematic when it comes to race, gender, and all that jazz.
Parodies allow me to keep the baby and throw out the bathwater -- and fill the tub with ridiculous jokes.
Ilyse: Jaws! Casablanca! Strangers on a Train! The Firm! Does anyone care about The Firm anymore?
I enjoyed the short-lived TV series, myself! Have you worked on any musical parodies before?
Jeremy: Nope. But I’d love a surprise invitation to join if there is one in the works.
What other TV shows do you fantasize might be turned into parodies?
Ilyse: Let’s just say I fantasize about parodying a sentimental tear-jerker about a family across the generations.
Jeremy: Quincy, M.E. The Musical! The Odd Couple has such a strong musical identity with its theme, and I bet it could crossover to a musical really well. But its already a comedy. Can you spoof a comedy?
I've heard of it done before -- to varying levels of success. But a musical Odd Couple could be totally amusing. What are you favorite current shows?
Ilyse: Oooh. Unbelievable was unbelievable. Dead to Me, Fleabag, obvi. Pen15. My husband doesn’t know that there are TV shows about men.
Jeremy: I can’t wait for the next rounds of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Better Call Saul. Larry David and Bob Odenkirk make me laugh every moment they are on screen. And I enjoyed Succession and Ray Donovan.
Ilyse: Seriously, it was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. All young actors should have to cast a show. The poignancy of what a lottery it all is really hit home for me.
And also the incredible bravery of actors. It’s nuts what is asked of them -- they just show up and start hurling themselves on the floor crying, then jump up and start singing Sondheim.
Being an actor is such a ridiculous thing, but actors are magical.
Jeremy: Casting was wonderfully intense. It made me feel alive; such amazing talent came through the door.
I felt like I wrote 20 movies over those days in my mind. Each one based on some character that was brought to life by a performance, or some other character that seemed to be the genuine article.
Tell us about the cast?
Ilyse: I love this cast so much I want to cry. Stop making me cry, Kerr!
But it's so fun.
Ilyse: It’s a really cool blend of musical theatre people, and improv and comedy people. So the balance is energizing and everyone brings out the best in each other.
Everyone is so committed and game-on, if we need someone to join a scene and walk by in a hot dog costume, someone jumps up. If we need two people to suddenly join a song as background doo-wop, two people jump in.
Some of these singing voices will slay you. I say this honestly -- I’ve never been a part of such a kind and easy-going cast -- except you, Kerr. You have been a fucking nightmare, but it’s worth it because you're so talented.
Ilyse: Producing is the least creative part of the process, but it suits my efficient nerd side. And it’s the only realm where I get to indulge the delusion that I have control over anything.
Jeremy: How hard it is turning out to be to get 12 speakers on stage! Since we don't have pit musicians, the cast will sing along with pre-recorded tracks.
To avoid that canned music sound, I’m attempting to put each instrument from the track in its own speaker to create the illusion of there being a band or small orchestra in the space.
Ilyse: How completely effective it is in eating up existential despair. I haven’t had a single thought of, “Why am I here? What’s it all for?” since the moment we began.
Ilyse: I met with several composers, and Jeremy sent me a scratch version of one concept for the song "Whatever Happened to My New York?"
Jeremy: I put her lyrics for it to music and she loved it! Yay!
Ilyse: It was brilliant. Jeremy is a genius -- the man has performed with Al Green, for God’s sakes. He’s also the most mellow person I have ever met in my life. I didn’t know it was possible to be that talented, and that easy-going. He’s my hero!
Jeremy: I met Ilyse through the brilliant writer, Leila Gerstein. Ilyse sent me an early version of the script, and I loved it.
I work with the multi-talented Laura Bell Bundy regularly, and we are usually working on something that has a blend of comedy and morality but most importantly has the intention to promote healthy cultural change.
These elements exist throughout the script and resonated with me. I wanted to be a part of it.
It's tough though to know what to compose for a new project or collaborator. I decided not to overthink anything and let it come out naturally: whatever I felt like, whatever was fun.
I felt to dive into something as all-encompassing as a full musical, I’d have to have the comfort of knowing that my natural way of composing works for the taste and style of the show.
Ilyse: Might be scared? I’ve been suppressing screams of terror this entire time, Kerr. The challenge of doing so much is feeling responsible for everything that will go wrong.
And the benefits?
Ilyse: The benefit is that it really extinguishes perfectionism.
I also have no trouble asking for help -- some of the best staging ideas in the play came from the cast. I have an amazing crew, cast, choreographer, composer, designer, stage manager -- this is a serious group effort.
Ilyse: Endless watching of Law & Order, and note-taking. I was born for this one, Kerr. People were, like, climbing the corporate ladder, having babies, traveling to India. And all that time, I was watching Law & Order. I had to make good on it!
Jeremy, what is your favorite part of composing and being the musical directing for this show? And of doing so in general, if different?
Jeremy: Theatre is all about the people for me! I love working with Ilyse and the whole cast.
A lot of my TV and film scoring begins in post-production after most of the juiciest creative decisions have already been made.
I work alone most of the time composing and programming score blueprints before quick one-day recordings. Once it's recorded and mixed, its all finished.
I love the freedom of solitude and working within strict parameters. However, it's a breath of fresh air for me to be involved before production began.
The collaboration with Ilyse was -- and still is -- incredibly rewarding.
She is extremely generous, offering me plenty of room to express my ideas. Together we refined timings, melodies, lyrics, production strategies –- all of which help mold the whole feel of the show.
Is there anything you are doing differently this time around than in previous productions?
Ilyse: My main focus is always making sure actors have enough snacks. My last short film’s entire budget was craft services.
Ilyse: THIS IS MY FAVORITE PROJECT, KERR; THIS IS ALL I CAN SEE. IT’S ALL I EAT SLEEP OR BREATHE!
But like -- before this -- definitely one of my favorite projects of all time was my long-form improv show with Matt Price called The Human Experience. Totally exhilarating and absurd.
Also, I had a highly forgettable two-minute stint on Arrested Development last year. I’m assuming it was equally fulfilling for Jason Bateman to do some on-set improv with me. Like, he probably thinks about it all the time, right?
Yes, Jason tells me all the time about his experience working with you! Jeremy?
Jeremy: Hmm let’s see. I scored marketing campaigns that introduced the world to Hulu. These spots starred Alec Baldwin, Seth MacFarlane and Denis Leary.
My favorite TV project was composing for CW’s Hart Of Dixie. It's full of country and blues score with great moments for emotional pop and orchestral as well.
We started doing on-camera performances in the second season, and it worked out so well it became a regular occurrence.
The show felt like it was on the verge of becoming a full-blown musical, and we ended our four-season tenure with a full cast song.
How about your experience with musical theatre?
Jeremy: Law & Order: The Musical! is my first full musical.
A couple of years ago I got my first chance to write an original song for a concert called Double Standards, which was a wonderful benefit that featured Broadway stars and supported women’s rights, health, and empowerment at The Town Hall NYC.
I asked Leila Gerstein -- who I mentioned earlier -- if she wanted to collaborate and we wrote a song called "My Body Belongs To Me."
So, for my first original song in the Broadway community, I will forever be honored and amazed that huge performers including Laura Bell Bundy, Ingrid Michaelson, Adrienne Warren, Natalie Joy Johnson, Eden Espinosa, and Judy Kuhn sang our song.
Lyrics for that included: "We’re taking back our pussies…. because our strong and determined pussies belong to us!"
Is there anything else you’d like to put out there for TV Fanatics to know?
Ilyse: I won’t be mad if they all decide to buy my book now that they’ve read this interview (links on my website -- www.ilysemimoun.com). But more importantly, I want to meet them when they to come to the show! See you at the show, fabulous Fanatics!
And let us know in the comments section what musical TV parodies you'd like to see come to life on stage some time. Me, I'll be banking on a The Incredible Hulk musical!
Kerr Lordygan is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.