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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Tobly McSmith creates a parade of parodies
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2017-09-13

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Bob and Tobly McSmith are the creators and writers of a long string of parodies based on TV shows. Exclamation points are a popular occurrence in titles, with Bayside! The Musical!, Full! House! The Musical and Showgirls! The Musical!

They are currently working on Philadelphia: On Ice and Anne Frank 2: Hungry for Vengeance ( and Bread ). Until then we have 90210: The Musical coming to Chicago. It is the unauthorized parody of the '90s TV show Beverly Hills, 90210.

Tobly talked about being trans and gave some of the behind-the-scenes info recently.

Windy City Times: Where in the world are you?

Tobly McSmith: I am calling from Brooklyn, where I live. I am originally from Austin, Texas.

WCT: Did you grow up loving TV or musicals more?

TM: It was more television. I moved to New York and met Bob. We were actually high on mushrooms when we came up with our first musical idea Saved By the Bell about 10 years ago.

WCT: Who is Bob?

TM: We have the same last name: McSmith. We just assumed these names. It feels right. It feels like we are brothers more than anything.

WCT: Is Bob trans also?

TM: No; he is cisgender straight, but he has made out with a few guys.

WCT: You grew up in Texas?

TM: Yes; at the time I didn't know what a trans person was. It was not talked about there when I grew up. I moved to New York and started dating women, so I identified as gay. Lesbian didn't feel right for me. I started meeting trans people. It was odd for me and I got angry about it. I thought that people are born into a body and needed to deal with it. It is so obvious to me now that I was fighting against who I really was. I was faced with it and not reacting as best as I could.

WCT: How did you begin creating these parodies?

TM: It started with 50 people crammed in a bar for Saved by the Bell. We didn't charge anything and gave away free alcohol. A lot of people came. We moved into a bigger bar and more people came. We finally moved to theaters. At that time we did Showgirls the Musical. The drag queen Peaches Christ did it in San Francisco last year. She played the Gina Gershon character Cristal Connors.

Next, we did Full House in an Off-Broadway 200 seat theater, and Perez Hilton came to star in it.

Right before we did 90210 last year, we did Katdashians! It was a parody of Cats and the Kardashians. Andrew Lloyd Webber tried to cease and desist us. He didn't like it.

WCT: Is it difficult to deal with the red tape of these parodies?

TM: If they bring you to court it is really costly. We changed some songs to make them back off. Even if we did the show now we would have to rewrite it. The Kardashians never stop.

WCT: Do you have a favorite Kardashian?

TM: Khloe.

WCT: Are you coming with 90210 to Chicago?

TM: Yes. This is the first time it has ever toured. We are thinking about putting it on the road in 2018. We will see how it does in Chicago. I feel like the humor is the same in New York and Chicago in many ways. Do you think it will work there?

WCT: Of course. You have built in fans with the series then that cute guy in overalls for the gays. I saw the promo picture of him and said, "Sign me up!"

TM: Dylan McKay is all you need!

WCT: What are some songs from the show?

TM: We have a song called "Oh, Yeah—Dylan McKay" and "Drama Zombies." We really take the drama in the show and heighten it.

WCT: Does the Brenda Walsh character bring a lot of drama to the show?

TM: Brenda brings all the drama. There is a lot of showmance in this cast. People got into character.

Christine Elise, who played Emily Valentine, is coming. She hosted the show in New York. She is coming out as a supporter.

WCT: How do the actors themselves feel about these parodies?

TM: We are about do Friends, and the National Enquirer did an article about how Jennifer Aniston is going to sue us over it. It is amazing that is a rumor and it is not true.

WCT: Wouldn't an actor sue? Wouldn't it be the writers who sue?

TM: Exactly—but we will take the publicity. We have had a few Saved by the Bell alumni come. We had Dennis Haskins, who was Mr. Belding, and Dustin Diamond, who was Screech.

WCT: I would hope the stars would have a good sense of humor about it.

TM: Especially with this much time after the '90s. They have gotten away from it.

WCT: How did you handle a serious subject like a parody of JonBenet?

TM: That was about 10 years ago. We were obsessed with True Crime and have read tons of books. The reviews were funny because they didn't want to like it, but they did. One of those three people in the house killed her. Everyone had a motive so they were trying to figure out who did it. We weren't taking too many shots at JonBenet. It was the family that we focused on. It was fun, and we are still proud of that one.

WCT: That seems like a Halloween show.

TM: Or Christmas, when she died…

WCT: Are there other parodies you have in your head that have not come to life yet?

TM: We go back and forth on a lot of them. Who knows what we will do next?

WCT: What is your favorite TV show?

TM: Well, one that doesn't lend itself to a parody would be Friday Night Lights. I enjoy a cry when I watch TV. Like any good comedy writer, I enjoy crying!

Head back to the Hills Sept. 13-17 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St. For tickets, visit BroadwayInChicago.com .


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