Sampling Psych: The Musical With Dulé Hill, James Roday, and Series Creator Steve Franks
Pop those jerk chicken nachos in the microwave, Psych-Os, because the long-awaited Psych: The Musical finally premieres this Sunday.
For many of us, "long-awaited" is the understatement of the decade. (It's like saying Gus has room for seconds, or that Shawn likes Tears for Fears.) The tune-filled spectacular was filmed in October 2012, and was clearly intended to air before the second half Season 7. (The proof is in the catchy opening number.)
And as series creator Steve Franks told me when I visited that long ago and far away set, the musical was on his mind since Psych was just a baby.
"We'd been talking about doing a musical since the last night of shooting the pilot—maybe even earlier than that. … Every year I would say, 'I'll go write a musical when we have free time.' And I never got free time because we always went right to the wire with our stories."
"It's taken a long, long time to write," recounted Franks, who—because he apparently doesn't sleep—penned not only the episode but all of its original songs... and then directed the two-hour extravaganza, too.
"I think something magical and strange is happening here that is beyond my reach," he told me after a long day of filming on The Musical's stunning set-within-a-set: the Victorian-era Murder in Whitechapel stage where much of the action takes place.
"I'm just letting it happen—I can't believe how good everybody's been."
Dulé Hill agreed: "It's surprised me how smooth it's gone," Hill said, although it certainly didn't hurt that the actor is a professional tap dancer who got his start on Broadway. Doing the dance stuff has been a blast."
And what his co-stars lacked in experience, they more than made up for with enthusiasm.
"[James] Roday... surprisingly, in his own way, has the Roday way of approaching the dance moves," laughed Hill, adding that "seeing Roday and Tim [Omundson] dance has been a lot of fun."
When I asked Roday to rank the cast's hoofing-it skills, he admitted that he and Omundson tied for third after Hill and Maggie Lawson, respectively.
"Tim and I are neck and neck, nose to nose, Thunder Dome-style, which is ironic because the two of us have to do good chunk of the dancing." (Which may or may not include an Argentine tango.)
Franks, meanwhile, called the dancing "surprisingly passable." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but he noted that the production's "spectacular" choreographer, Paul Becker, "put together a lot of really great complicated things that James and Dulé and Tim and Maggie were forced to figure out how to do. They did really well with it. ... There is a fight sequence that if it doesn't suck once we cut it together is going to be one of the coolest things we've ever done," Franks said.
Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen the finished product, and it definitely doesn't suck. But what stands out most, of course, are the songs—featuring not only the regular cast (with one hilariously notable exception) but two returning fan-favorite guest stars. (Their duet will have you crying—from both laughter and grief.)
"All of the songs are original, which in today's day and age I think is a bit rare," noted Roday. "The zeitgeist is mostly offering up a lot of covers of other songs, between singing competition shows and Glee and Pitch Perfect. These shows are tapping into pop culture and what we hear on regular basis and putting their own spin on it."
Roday compared Psych: The Musical to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's iconic musical episode "Once More With Feeling," whose music and lyrics were composed by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, "We sort of went old school," said Roday. "It was really important to Steve that the musical be stuffed with as much original material as possible. It's not just one song—Steve wrote the musical with eight original songs and reprises. For that reason alone it's pretty unique, and fans should be pumped. There's a reason we didn't spit this out too early. Steve had a very specific vision for this, and it just took seven years."
Franks said that executive story editor Carlos Jacott (who's guest-starred in and written a number of past Psych episodes) captured the spirit of Psych: The Musical best when said that the reason the musical works so well is that Psych in itself is a musical without the songs."It's all the stuff that happens in between the ridiculous songs. And we've just actually added the songs back in."
Trust me: After Sunday, you'll be playing those songs—including "Santa Barbara Skies," "I've Heard It Both Ways" and the cripplingly funny "Jamaican Inspector"—on repeat.
The two-hour Psych: The Musical premieres Sunday, December 15 at 9pm on USA.
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