USUCC: An Original Zoomsical, A Different Kind of Musical

by Neil Bui

Many of us, if not all of us, are familiar with Zoom by now. It’s a video communication tool that has allowed life to continue in a remote and quarantined society. Classes run through Zoom, work meetings, even graduations and speaker events. But one group of creatives have decided to work on a new comedy musical titled USUCC: An Original Zoomsical, a Zoom-musical.

USUCC: An Original Zoomsical was filmed remotely and entirely on mobile phones with minimal additional equipment. Actors took on roles that went beyond the screen, such as filming, recording music, adjusting camera angles, and even lighting. Filmmakers Brian Ryu and Julia Krom (writers and directors of the film) had the idea to bring together a group of creatives during a difficult time of the pandemic, with cast and crew working together across the country from Hawaii to Los Angeles to New York.

An early preview of one of the musical numbers from USUCC: An Original Zoomsical, USUCC Is Not Our Home:

The cast and crew were more than happy to answer questions we have about Zoom musicals.

NEIL BUI (NB): What are the advantages of a Zoom musical platform?

Ian Parker (Charlie): Some advantages to the Zoom platform are multiple takes and an open-ended number of chances to get the audio component just right. It also allows for zoom related humor which is desperately needed right now. Also the chance to work with people no matter where they are.

Jake Ellsworth (Nick): Biggest advantage to a Zoom musical? Multiple takes. For. Sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘live’ aspect of theater, but being able to share the best run is awesome.

Hannah Duran (Emily): I think the biggest advantage of doing a zoom musical is being able to collaborate with people outside of your area. Our team had people from Hawaii to New York, and without our zoomsical I most likely would have never met them. I also have never been a tech-savvy person, so doing this forced me to learn a lot about the technical side of sound, camera angles, etc. I’ll definitely take that with me.

Julia Krom (Writer, Director): We’ve been able to tap into so much talent from all across the country and world because we were not limited by geography. When Brian and I first started collaborating for HocacaTV, we were roommates living in New York. I’ve since moved to Los Angeles, but Zoom has allowed us to revive this fun project together and make something people can hopefully enjoy when they need enjoyment most.

Brian Ryu (Writer, Director): We can all collaborate safely during the pandemic. And even though the platform does provide limitations, it also allows us to focus on the basics.

Troy Enoka (Producer): Using a virtual conferencing platform like Zoom for a musical gives us the ability to coordinate everything from casting, rehearsals, shooting, and more across multiple locations and time zones. COVID has forced creatives to adapt and work in ways that we never imagined we’d have to. Despite the limitations of working remotely, Zoom does offer many benefits.

NB: Once things return to normal, do Zoom Musicals still have a place in this world?

Amanda Kristin Cox (Hannah the Hound): I think this incredibly unusual and difficult time in our world has taught us to find new ways to be innovative and create beautiful art together. Now that we know it is possible, and have developed the skills to do it, I think that Zoom musicals will absolutely continue! They will never take the place of being physically present and enjoying a show, but I think they have carved out their own special place in our field.

Ian Parker (Charlie): It’s clear that remote theater does have a place and an audience, and will be a good complement to live performances.

Jake Ellsworth (Nick): I think Zoom/online musicals could continue post-pandemic. Different stories require different mediums to be told. The story we have to share fits this platform perfectly, so the right story I feel could do it again.

Hannah Duran (Emily): I think it would be really cool if zoom readings or musicals started online and transferred to the stage. Obviously, the ideal situation would always be to collaborate together, but now we have a tool to use if we are unable to meet in person.

Kevin Herrara (Michael) – I think they certainly have a place. For people who attach themselves to a project, but have to suddenly leave due to extenuating circumstances, having this platform allows for that flexibility. If one has to leave a certain area, it doesn’t automatically mean the end of participation in a given project. It allows for people to meet, rehearse, and record in person if able. But the Zoom platform provides flexibility to record separately if necessary.

Brian Ryu (Writer, Director): I think this was a unique opportunity for us to create something fun (and funny!) during the pandemic and to bring people together.

Julia Krom (Writer, Director): I agree with Brian that this specific story is one we felt really fit the moment in which we’re currently living. I do think there will still be a place for remote theater in the future, especially allowing for the best and the brightest to collaborate and not be limited by travel funding.

Cristyn Dang (Choreographer): This current Zoomsical definitely opens possibilities and opportunities for future Zoomsicals! It has shown us that it is still very possible to pursue our love for the arts during a pandemic and while miles away. This production has also demonstrated how convenient it is for creatives to work from home and for audience members to view from home, qualities that we can certainly carry into future projects.

Morgan Kern (Editor): Sure, why not? I predict Zoom will continue to be as big of a communication platform as FaceTime or Skype. Plus, musicals will always find an audience!

For more about USUCC: An Original Zoomsical:

Official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH3YOFnkadZXyr39iZ9BECA

Synopsis:

When character arts university professor Hannah the Hound finds herself in the middle of a tuition refund strike by her students due to the coronavirus pandemic, she questions what it means to be a teacher.

Written and Directed by | Brian Ryu and Julia Krom

Produced by | Troy Enoka

Lyrics | Kyra Madden

Composer | Eunike Tanzil

Choreography | Cristyn Dang

Editor | Morgan Kern

Cast | Amanda Kristin Cox, Kevin Herrera, Hannah Duran, Ian Parker, Jake Ellsworth

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Country | United States

Language | English

Run time | 40 min

Company | HOCACA TV

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