Brittany Garms and Tara Pitt are discussing who would read the Mein Kampf book on tape.
“Like, it couldn't be James Earl Jones reading the Bible. 'Christian Bale Reads Mein Kampf.' This is the beginning of a sketch. This is how it usually happens,” Garms, 23, says as she and Pitt, 36, collapse into laughter.
The duo are the co-founders of Nailed It! Productions as well as the co-creators of last year's surprise Hollywood Fringe hit Natalie Portman The Musical! and the currently-running Christian Bale The Musical! The premise is simple: sketches about what may – or may not – have happened behind the scenes of a famous actor's film career.
Garms and Pitt met doing community theatre in Orange County when Garms was just six years old, and became each other's extended family. When Garms needed a star for Natalie Portman The Musical!, Pitt was the natural choice. It ran for over a year and inspired a series. (Next up? Tom Hanks The Musical! “Which will be roughly seven hours long,” Garms jokes.)
After a recent performance of Christian Bale The Musical!, we sat down with the two writer/director/actors and talked the challenges of being women in theatre in a movie town, the most outrageous musical theater songs and just what would happen if Christian Bale showed up at a show about him.
Why Christian Bale?
Garms: We did the Natalie Portman one, and it took a long time. We'd been doing it for a long time, and we knew it was time to move on – everybody in Los Angeles had probably seen it at that point. I wasn't sure who I wanted to do, but I walked out of The Dark Knight Rises, and my friend was like, “Who was that guy?” And I'm like, “What? He was a Swing Kid and a Newsie, he has such a great career!” That's it. He's the next one. You have to pick the right person. You have to have the right career, and you can't be a joke. You don't want to make fun of them.
How did Natalie Portman The Musical! come about, anyway?
Garms: It came out of frustration. I wrote it when I was 16 and awkward and overweight. I wasn't the “triple threat,” and people up here were hiring 20-year-olds to play 16-year-olds. No one will give me the role I want, so I'm just gonna write it. It took a long time to get there. I was 20 when we first put it up in Orange County. It's way different and I realized it works best the less serious we take it. It has to be sketch comedy with music. It took a long time to get to that. Christian Bale The Musical! happened overnight. I wrote it in four days. Because I have zero friends.
You're like, “Christian Bale is my friend!” Now, I can tell you both did musical theater. As did I. The lineup of the chorus at the end, with the random harmonizing of Christian Bale's name …
Pitt: Yeah, I did musicals and I never actually really thought about writing music until she was like, hey, I need music for the show, what do you think? Sure, I'll take a crack at it. I do play the piano. She wrote all the lyrics, we sat down and formatted it so it had a structure. We just worked together to mold it. And it fell together somehow.
Garms: That's our thing, too – it doesn't just make fun of movies and television, it makes fun of musicals too. The end of Natalie Portman was called “The Epic Ending Song.” Six minutes, it never ended. If you get musicals, there are a lot of inside jokes.
Pitt: Three key changes in one song.
What's the most ludicrous song from a musical?
Pitt: Probably any song from Avenue Q! Ridiculous but brilliant.
Garms: Same with “You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)” from Spamalot. A lot of stuff on paper – like Ragtime – I look at it like, “Who thought of this?!” It's like a nine-part harmony! But when you see it done well you're like, “OHMYGOD.”
Then you see the horrible high school theater version of it.
Pitt: Most Rogers and Hammerstein is like that. People see really awful productions of it and think it's bad. But nooo, you see one brilliant production of it and you get it.
Two women in Hollywood, especially two women doing theatre in Hollywood, is a challenge, no doubt. How do you handle that?
Pitt: We just realize to make it, you've gotta create your own material and find a way to get it out there. And sometimes the only way to get it out there is to do it yourself.
Garms: We've been having this conversation about women being funny. The movies they're making now – 10 years ago The Heat would be George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The idea that we've come such a long way but there's still so many people who write them off. “Girl's movie” or whatever. I think in terms of being women in L.A., that's what we see as the biggest challenge. Women are supposed to be sexy or be serious. No middle ground. So screw it! I'm gonna do my own stuff!
What would happen if Christian Bale showed up to one of these performances?
Pitt: We felt like if Natalie Portman showed up, she'd be down. Christian is probably the one we're most worried about, because he's a little intense.
Garms: I did a lot of copyrighting research and I think the only thing we could get in trouble for is the New Kids on the Block song. So even if he hated us, I don't think he could do anything. But we love him!
Pitt: He's known for not liking musicals, so I think we're safe.
Christian Bale The Musical! runs at The Chromolume Theatre at The Attic, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., 90016, this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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