Starbucks began selling pumpkin spice lattes in 2003, and yes, I liked them at first. Every Autumn, without fail, I would go out and buy one. And yet, with every first sip, also without fail, I would say to myself, “all the hype makes these sound better than they actually are.” In spite of my lackluster acceptance of the pumpkin spice craze, the phenomenon grew, sort of like Audrey II in “The Little Shop of Horrors,” until it had “swallowed up” store shelves around the globe. All of a sudden, in addition to lattes,
there were pumpkin spice candies, cookies, cereals, air fresheners and, I kid you not, dog treats! It was almost like the entire world had gone pumpkin spice mad, and someone had to put a stop to it - or, at least, make the insanity more palatable to people like me, who were left with a nasty pumpkin spice aftertaste in their mouths. And what’s more palatable to the masses than comedy – or, more specifically, musical comedy!
Hence, the first seeds were planted for “Pumpkin Spiced Musical.”
The title certainly had a nice ring to it. The next step was to fashion the plot around a pumpkin spice product more ridiculous than some of the outlandish items currently on the market. Hmm … pumpkin spice gas for your car? Only if it was cheaper than the high prices we’re currently paying. Plus, don’t they say inhaling gas fumes is dangerous? How about … pumpkin spice Chalupas (or whatever the next Taco chain hot commodity is)? Oh God, I think I just regurgitated a little in my mouth. No, perhaps the pumpkin spice product doesn’t need to be edible (or, in the case of the Chalupas, highly inedible).
Maybe, because the aroma of pumpkin spice is probably the top thing it has going for it … something scent related? Perfume and colognes, they help facilitate love and romance, right? And, so does lingerie. Hmm… got it! A pumpkin spice scented bra! And I’ll call it … the Pumpkin Spiced Brat-te (c’mon work with me here … you know, it rhymes with latte?) How perfect!
Now, once the product was set, everything else would come easy. Right?
In the beginning, at least, it was. For the storyline, I created the fictional Sam ‘n’ Ella Advertising Agency, whose owners had fallen upon hard times and needed a “big idea” to avoid bankruptcy and foreclosure. And, of course, that super-sized idea, though sure to be full of folly, was the Pumpkin Spiced Brat-te.
Next, maybe even more important than the plot, was the music. As a composer, I fashioned all the songs after the ones I grew up loving as a child in the 1970’s – from shows like “Grease,” “Pippin,” and “Chicago,” to name a few – while adding more modern influences from “Wicked,” “Legally Blonde,” and also brilliant Disney musicals past and present.
As a pianist for many years at a local steak house, it was only natural for “Pumpkin Spiced Musical” to have its first life as a live stage play, performed for friends and family in the back room of Hunter’s Steak & Ale House in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York. The audiences loved it! So much so, that their reaction spurred me on to transform my campy stage play into an even campier movie!
With four amazingly talented musical comedy actors, my wife and I produced and directed the film during the heart of the pandemic, in November 2021. To save money on location shooting, I reworked the story so that the entirety could be filmed in my house. Hence, instead of taking months to film, we shot it in three days! And, in order to save money, I “hired” myself as film editor, working on it tirelessly, every single day for five whole months!
Were there no bumps in the road during the “Pumpkin Spiced Musical” process? If I said “no,” I’d be lying. The night before day one of filming, the sound engineer contracted Covid and canceled. During the three-day shoot, the clip-on lavalier microphones we used caused numerous headaches, often creating an annoying electronic hum, picking up the sound of rustling clothes as the actors moved and danced, and needing to be constantly re-taped and applied under the actors' clothing. Camera problems arose due to excessive light pouring in from various windows. The overexposed footage caused me to hire a professional editor, at great expense, to color correct the film. Additionally, when filming wrapped, I discovered there were so many scenes where vitally important action was simply not filmed. This was due to my trust in our cinematographer (who shall remain nameless), who assured me she caught all the action.
In the end, did we get over those many bumps? Absolutely. The actors were consistently amazing. We did over two hundred takes, and they brought their 'A' game to each and every one. Thankfully, everyone stayed healthy throughout, with great attitudes and empathy for each other. No one got hurt climbing on our sofa, our fireplace ledge, or going up and down our multiple staircases. And finally, my wife, who put up with my rearranging our entire house and filming during a global pandemic - and who not only assisted me with every single aspect of this project, but allowed me to use a considerable portion of our savings to make this dream of mine a reality – guess what? She didn't club me over the head with the clapboard she used to call each take!
As I write this, I have no idea if people will love the movie, hate it, or perhaps just be motivated to go out and buy another pumpkin spice latte. Of course, I’m a little biased, but I think my film is awesome. While I hope everyone reading this will agree with me, even if the reviews are not stellar, it will always be a complete success in my eyes.
Now, excuse me while I head over to Starbucks for my first seasonal sip of a … Caramel Brulee Latte! What did you think I was going to say? As the lead character in “Pumpkin Spiced Musical” asks, “whoever thought of flavoring a freshly-brewed cup of coffee with pumpkin? Pumpkin? You ever smell a pumpkin? Smells nasty. They taste nasty, too!”
"Pumpkin Spiced Musical" premieres on August 15th, 2022, available on YouTube and multiple streaming platforms.