Producer talks what fans can expect from “Thrones! The Musical Parody”


Thrones! The Musical Parody is exactly what you’d expect: a funny retelling of the Game of Thrones story through song. You may not have heard of it, but Thrones! has been ready to blow up for a while. It was first put together back in 2015 by the team behind “Baby Wants Candy,” a long-running improvised musical showcase. (Alumni have included 30 Rock’s Jack McBreyer, Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch, and Saturday Night Live’s Rachel Dratch.) After test runs in LA and at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Thrones! is now in the middle of a run at Chicago’s Apollo Theater, with a national tour hopefully in the near future.

We spoke to executive producer Emily Dorezas about how she and her team put together the songs, how they picked the cast, and about which recent Game of Thrones moment was just too painful to joke about, even in a comedy show. First, the premise:

"There’s a bunch of friends getting together to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones…and then it’s revealed that one of the friends admits, ‘Guys, I’ve actually never seen an episode of Game of Thrones‘…and after they get over the shock of that, they say, ‘Well, there’s only one way to catch you up, and that is to act it out,’ so these friends act out all six seasons of Game of Thrones."

Well, yeah, how else would you do it?

All told, the show features around six actors performing over 40 roles. It sports 21 original songs, including “Stabbin’” (about the Red Wedding), “F*$k Everyone Who Isn’t Us” (with Jamie and Cersei), “These Are All the Names” (wherein the cast lists all names in the series), “You Know Nothing” (featuring Jon Snow and Ygritte), and “The Ending That We Want.”

Something tells me the song about Cersei’s Walk of Shame will feature prominent use of bells, but that’s just speculation.

Incidentally, although the people who wrote Thrones! come from the world of improvisation, that’s not how these songs were written. “It wasn’t just kind of, like, winging it and they were like ‘Done!'” Dorezas said. “It was a lot of rewrites and making sure that it made sense thematically.” She and her team had to be careful when finding performers who could find that balance, and perform comedy as well as sing.

"When you’re doing a parody, you kind of open yourself up to, like, well, ‘Are you gonna take it seriously?’ And the songs we really wanted to present in the most, like, beautiful way, so vocally we really wanted to meet that, but the show is very fast and it’s obviously comedic, so we really had to try and find both elements. And on top of that, some of the parts we really also wanted an impression of the characters in Game of Thrones…Y’know, like a rough kind of vague idea of, like, an emo Jon Snow, or, like, y’know, a Jorah that sounds like Jorah."

I think they did a decent job with Jon Snow and Daenerys above, all things considered, although you can judge for yourself.

Before they tackled Thrones!, Dorezas and company worked on a musical parody version of 50 Shades of Grey. (Called 50 Shades! The Musical, naturally.) That musical was successful. But while everyone on the team read that book, they weren’t exactly wild about it. “[W]e also had the thought, ‘What if it was something that we were passionate about? What could we parody out there that would fit that?'” And like anybody living in our pop culture nowadays, they were passionate about Game of Thrones. And a parody musical was born.

Parodying an ongoing TV show has another side benefit: Dorezas’ team can add new material as new seasons air. Hopefully, that’ll extend the show’s shelf life. “In the world of parody, that is great,” she said.

"[With 50 Shades!] we knew that we kind of had to get out there and get out there fast, whereas Game of Thrones, I think…the material’s really dense. There’s so many layers and there’s more layers coming, so to be able to, like, play with that for a while is…a really cool option."

Unfortunately, this also means that the team has to prune songs as more material comes in. At the moment, Thrones! The Musical Parody runs for 90 minutes with an intermission, so some older songs had to be cut or repurposed. For example, there was a song in “the first run” of the show that focused heavily Ned Stark. “He’s such a big character that everybody loves, but it was so long ago, that…there were too many other things that needed to be said to make it flow better, so something like that now went from a big song to, like, a couple lines in a different song.” A shame, but something has to go if we’re going to get songs about Hodor’s last stand and the Battle of the Bastards.

On that note, I was surprised to learn that, although Dorezas says that the comedy is paramount, there was one iconic Game of Thrones moment the team couldn’t bring itself to mock: Hodor’s death. “We kind of took [Hodor’s death] really seriously,” she said.

"You don’t really want to make fun of that because it was such a powerful moment, so we just kind of turned it into a tribute to Hodor."

But why, I ask, is Hodor’s death off limits while something like the Red Wedding fodder for comedy? (Dorezas calls “Stabbin'” “the most violent song in the show” and one of her favorites.) “It’s a really dark moment in the show,” she said of the Red Wedding, “but it’s so over the top that it kind of opens itself up to being a little bit made fun of…But Hodor was so beloved, and he never did anything but be this sweet comic relief…”

“Knock knock.” “TOO SOON.”

Everyone involved behind the scenes of Thrones! sounds like a fan, so the wound may have just been too fresh. “We’re kind of saying, like, this thing that George R.R. Martin created, this world is so awesome and we are right there with you.”

"So it’s kind of like, we know when there were moments in the show that deserve some reverence, and we also are like, ‘Nothing changed. Jon Snow just wears a ponytail now…He just died and now he has a ponytail? That’s supposed to be the big difference? So, like, there are things like that that will be called out, little details that we all notice that come when we’re watching the show or that we thought when reading the books."

Dorezas stresses that theatergoers can enjoy Thrones! even if they haven’t watched the HBO show. According to her, there are “enough nods to other genres in this show that you can appreciate it even if you’re a fan of Star WarsHamilton, or Harry Potter…It’s a nice way to kind of understand the show in a crazy way.”

Thrones! will run at the Apollo Theater in Chicago through November 13, 2016. Head here for ticket info. But if you’re not in the area, Dorezas is eying a national tour is early 2017, plus international licensing. Until then, you can always enjoy Coldplay’s Game of Thrones musical.

Oh, and if you happen to see this show without watching Game of Thrones first, I’ll state the obvious: SPOILER WARNING.