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Q&A with George Shaw

Q&A with George Shaw

If you haven’t seen the Star Wars Musical yet, you’re missing out.

Here we interview the man that brought it all together, TableTop composer George Shaw.

How did this project come together? Who wrote it, how did you fund it, and how did you choose who would be in it?

George Shaw: I started writing Star Wars The Musical about a month after Disney announce their purchase of Star Wars. In the beginning I wanted to do something along the lines of what AVByte did with their Disney Princess Leia video, where the Disney princesses welcome Leia to the Disney princess club. But once I started taking Disney songs and changing the lyrics, it kind of took of and transformed itself into the story of A New Hope. The first song I started with, was taking A Whole New World, my favorite Disney song, and turning it into A Jedi World. Then it was a process of outlining the story and figuring out which songs would work where.

As for funding, we had none. Every single person that helped make this volunteered their time and talent. We would definitely love to make Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi for all the Star Wars and Disney fans out there, and are planning to do a Kickstarter to raise funds to produce them at an even higher quality than the first one. Follow us at StarWarsMusical.com for updates!

Casting the actors was a fun process. Andrew Bowen was in a web series called The: Division, that I composed music for, and also played Han Solo in a sketch video for the Geekie Awards which I was music director on (this is his 3rd time playing Han Solo, he did so previously on MADtv before).

I met Haviland Stillwell through my lyric writing partner Deborah S. Craig. Both of them are Broadway stars, and some of the most incredible singers I’ve ever met and have worked with them on other projects (like The Real Women of LA – Women of LA parody that Deborah created).

I met Shawn Crosby (Obi-Shawn) at a Golden State Pops Star Wars concert, and was immediately blown away when he did impersonations of both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor. He’s a part of the 501st Legion and really helped connect us with other cosplayers with amazing Star Wars costumes, as well as being our expert source for getting all the Star Wars details right. For example, at one point our rough background sketches, we were using the big circular Death Star window from the emperor’s throne room from Return of the Jedi, and Shawn pointed out that we needed to be using the very different window from A New Hope.

Finding Luke took a little more time, but Tim Fitzsimons came to us through the Winner Twins, and had recently graduated in Musical Theater from Cal State Fullerton.

Any fun stories from set?

George Shaw: First of all, it was quite an experience to even be on a set, and to see what an incredible director Jeffrey Gee Chin is and how many amazing ideas he comes up with. And the scary thing was I had to cover for him and direct a little bit when he couldn’t make it. So he did his best to prepare me and let me direct under his tutelage on the early days. I think I did pretty well, it’s a bit like working with singers, but with a whole other layer of dealing with the physical space and the movement and acting.

In the Cantina scene, Han Solo toasts with the Holy Grail, a nod to Indiana Jones. My Production Designer, Sonny Nguyen (who is a Disney Imagineer), created the Holy Grail from a plastic cup I bought. There was also a crystal skull (another nod to Indy) that Snow White pours Han’s drink from. We needed an alien looking drink, so we bought blue Gatorade from a 7/11 next door to the studio. In fact, all the background characters are drinking various colors of Gatorade in those scenes.

Because we had so few days to shoot, it was a puzzle putting together the shooting schedule with the various actor’s schedules. In fact, Leia never shot at the same time as Luke, but through the magic of editing and green screen, their scenes work beautifully together.

Lastly, I met my girlfriend at my producer, Mylen’s birthday party during the shoot. Turns out she was a huge fan of Star Wars and was really interested when I started talking about shooting the musical. I invited her to come hang out on set, and even got her to play the Evil Witch from Snow White in the Cantina scene (where she’s dry heaving b/c Obi-Wan force pushed the poisoned apple into her mouth in the previous scene).

When I was younger I wasn’t as open about my geekiness, thinking that acting cool would be more attractive, but I’m glad I realized as I got older that it’s best to be who you are and really share your passions with others, which in turn attracts people who have similar passions. Working with Wil Wheaton in composing music for Tabletop was one of the things that really helped me see that. I’m glad that I really pursued my passion by doing a mashup of the two things that inspired me most to become a composer, Star Wars and Disney Musical. So many positive things have come as a result. Lesson learned.

What is the thesis of the Star Wars musical? What do you want the audience to take away from it?

George Shaw: I hope audiences will laugh and enjoy the mashup of Disney and Star Wars. Rewatch to find the hidden easter eggs throughout the film, like nods to Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Pixar, Avengers (Nick Fury has a barely noticeable appearance somewhere), and hidden mickey ears throughout William Wu’s incredible artwork. For the really nerdy music/soundtrack fans, I hope they discover the intricate musical mashups, like the opening Star Wars theme arranged like the opening Prologue music to Beauty and the Beast, or the Cantina Band mashed up with Under the Sea, and even hints of Anakin’s Theme at the end of “When You Bow Before the Sith” or the Force Theme during “Circle of Life” and “Use The Force! Use the Force! Use the Force!”.

Anything you’d like to add?

George Shaw: I’m already working on my next musical with Harry Shum Jr. (of Glee fame), which makes use of tunes from Disney’s Frozen. We also have some great celebrity cameos that geeks will love!

Be sure to follow George on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview by Supriya Limaye, @supriyalimaye

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