BroadwayWorld talks with "Thanks for Playing: The Game Show Show" co-creator Shannon Guggenheim about the future of the show and of the Retro Dome, as well as the history, making of and themes of the show. Read the full interview below!
Tell me a bit about the show for those who don't know anything. Is it more of a general comedy or more of a spoof/melodrama?
Thanks for Playing: The Game Show! is a wonderful marriage of old-school musical theatre comedy with contemporary humor and wit, with an added bonus of unpredictable audience participation thrown in. Set in the late '50s, then early '60s, we see a game show struggling to get (and stay) on the air during the live TV era. The show, though, is really about the changing role of women in that era and the obstacles that they faced in being taken seriously, as well as the famous scandals that rocked the quiz/game show industry.
Retro Dome has done several live theater shows now.
We opened in 2009 with a revival of our immensely popular production of "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" Over the last 3 years, we've offered fans a mix of original works like "The MeshugaNutcracker!" and "Santastic", some tried and true pieces like "The Fantasticks" and "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown", lesser-known works but regional premieres like "Shout! The Mod Musical" and "Sisters of Swing: The Story of The Andrews Sisters," and of course, the first post-Broadway run of "Xanadu."
How does this new show compare to past shows?
Our new show is designed to give our audience everything they want in a night out: it's fun, it's silly, it's playful - but today's audiences also want something more, so there's a nice moral woven throughout that our players have to learn before they can move on to the "final round." We play tremendously on the "life is a game" metaphor and beg viewers to consider that it isn't about the prize, but rather how you play the game and what you do with the cards you're dealt.
How does this new show help Retro Dome grow? It seems like a pretty big step toward the future.
Any time a theatre company creates its own live theatrical property, it's a huge endeavor. We'd love "Thanks For Playing: The Game Show Show!" to enjoy a long life at The Retro Dome before packaging it for other theatre companies to present and perform.
So how do you see Retro Dome growing overall and specifically as a theatre company?
The Retro Dome is poised to be a place where local audiences can see new works. We welcome authors to submit projects for our consideration both as a production company and as a home where they can bring their project to perform. We have two intimate theatres to consider production so the properties we present will always be smaller in scale but huge in innovation and surprise.
What was the collaborative process like for creating this show? How long has it been in the works?
We've been batting around ideas for a new work that would fit the Retro Dome brand for the last three years, but it wasn't until March of last year that we really crystalized the idea of a show that would celebrate classic game shows. But we couldn't start work right away: we were already heavy in production with our existing season and had a musical theatre summer conservatory to run before presenting our holiday production of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." We didn't put pen to paper until January 2012, but from there we were off like gang-busters. We had weekly collaborative sessions between the composers and lyricist (Shannon Guggenheim, Stephen Guggenheim and Tom Tomsalleo) and constant brainstorming sessions with Scott Evan Guggenheim who conceptualized the project. Ours is a well-oiled, theatre-making machine, so slipping into high gear to write, produce, and fundraise to get the show off the ground was natural.
Tell me about the inspiration for the show - the historical background. Why do a show on game shows?
Anyone age 35 or older will likely have fond memories of watching game shows on TV (or listening to them on the radio!). All of the creators of our show had at least a dozen specific memories of particular moments in game show history that made a huge impression and it occurred to us that perhaps there hasn't been anything created before quite like this when it comes to celebrating America's favorite pastime: game shows. We dove hard into research and found amazingly compelling and dramatic stories as well as a missing link: the roles of women in game show culture. We worked to create a script that showed women as the real brains behind the business.