Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Gordon Shapiro, Composer of Music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Gordon Shapiro, a composer of music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls, who I first met during the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival when I attended his The Bully Problem musical, which included not only great lessons against bullying in schools and why it is so important to stand up for yourself, but also his love of robots! The show had its commercial premiere at that Festival, where it earned an Encore Producers Award and was a Pick of the Fringe selection. It was also nominated for seven awards including Best Musical, Top of the Fringe, and Fringe First. And you can bet I was back in the audience during its additional performances in August 2019 – for a third time!


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Gordon Shapiro (Mike): I wasn’t a theatre kid. I regarded actors as magical creatures with unnatural abilities. (How did they show emotion on demand like that? How did they even memorize all those lines?) And I didn’t become serious about writing musicals until my 30s. Age is a great motivator!

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I’ve been developing a new family musical called Gideon and the Blundersnorp. (The mental image that you just came up with is probably accurate.) We were slated to premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June, and my producing organization, New Musicals Inc., had booked our run at the Broadwater Main Stage. I had reserved studio time for the cast album and was thinking about my wardrobe for the festival awards party. In short, we were looking forward to this.

(SB): I understand.  It will be a very strange June this year without being able to walk from theater to theater and see 3 or 4 shows a day as I have done at the Fringe for several years now. It must have been very difficult to communicate about the shutdown with the cast and production team of your show.

(Mike): The producers and I had kept an eye on the Coronavirus situation as it progressed, adjusting our expectations accordingly. By the time LA announced the closure of theater venues, we had a suspicion that our original production schedule wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t fully cast yet, but we emailed members of the creative team. It was primarily a courtesy; at that point just about everyone understood the situation.

(SB):  I know the Hollywood Fringe Festival has been re-scheduled for this October. How confident are you it will be able to take place at that time?

(Mike): Our star is hitched to the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival. The Fringe has tentative plans to open in October. If the festival proceeds, we’ll be there with bells on, running at the originally-planned venue and on dates that parallel those of the prior June schedule. Needless to say, we’ve got our fingers crossed!

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Mike): If there isn’t a Hollywood Fringe this year, we’ll likely move Gideon and the Blundersnorp to next summer. Consequentially, whatever to-be-written show I might have premiered in 2021 will get bumped. Unless I become pathologically ambitious and try and launch two shows next summer… no, that would be unwise.

(SB) Unwise, perhaps. But most welcome to this reviewer!

(Mike): *looks contemplatively into the distance*

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): I’ve taken advantage of the downtime to work on the cast album from my prior musical, The Bully Problem. We tracked vocals last year, but there was such a tremendous amount of editing and mixing that I decided to defer it to when I had sufficient time to hunker down. That time is now. The silver lining for me personally is being able to launch this album much sooner than planned.

(SB): As you know, The Bully Problem was one of my favorites shows at last year’s Fringe, and I look forward to being able to hear the score again. For those who missed my review, here is the link

(Mike): I also contributed to the Hollywood’s Fringe’s premiere Virtual Cabaret. Allie Costa self-recorded herself performing a song from Gideon which was presented alongside videos from other Fringe participants. A lively group interacted in the chat room while the online talent show live-streamed. It was great fun, and certainly helped maintain the spirit of artistic camaraderie while we’re all physically separated. (You can watch the first cabaret installment here:

Jenn Crafts started an online play reading series that’s been a huge success. I’ve enjoyed being an audience member and supporting creators who might need a motivational boost. While online readings aren’t meant to replace live theatre, I think they offer a valuable supplementary experience. I hope this sort of thing continues even as we emerge from the lockdown period.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): If you’re nervous on a plane flight, think about what you’re going to do after you land. That is, look past the unsettling present, and make your mind focus on what’s to follow. The same principle applies here.

For more information, please visit the website of my upcoming show's Gideon and the Blundersnorp at GideonMusical.com. Here is the website for The Bully Problem TheBullyProblem.com. You can also find me on Twitter and on Instagram.


The Bully Problem photos credit: Matt Kamimura

This article first appeared on Broadway World.



For Acting Coach Joshua Finkel, Creativity Goes On...


Actor/director/producer/teacher Joshua Finkel does not let CoViD-19 get in the way of his work. In our discussion he gives us examples of the projects he is most proud of and is totally insistent on marching forward in spite of the odds.


Don Grigware (DG): Are you still working during CoViD-19? If so, for whom?

Joshua Finkel (JF): Right now I'm just working for California Lutheran University. Everything else that would be extracurricular or master classes or whatever has shut down so this is my ongoing semester gig.

After I get over some work pile with that, learning how to segue all that info online-- which is a definite trial-and-error learning curve, I might do some free online classes for clients just to keep people creative, because I know people are out of work and they can't afford to pay me for stuff like this most likely. So it's a really tricky catch-22 and I'm grateful for the University right now.

But that is the only place I work aside from New Musicals Inc where I am not doing master classes because we have to maintain social distance, plus there is no reason to need to audition for anything right now because everything is shut down.

My directing projects at California Lutheran also got shut down. If we can, we will remount those shows in the fall if some of those people are still available. It's a weird bubble as you know.

DG: When you work with a client, do you encourage a new interpretation of playing a role or adding something innovative?

JF: If I am teaching my cabaret class or I am working with a client to build a one person show, it's always about finding a fresh angle or finding a subject matter that is less explored, but that they have a very close and personal relationship with.

One of my favorite results of that was with Roslyn Cohn, who let us know that she had been a member of the church of Scientology for 27 years and had gotten out. This was a few years back, before the Going Clear film had come out and really no one had a clear understanding of the breakdown and blow-by-blow of the Scientology organization

So we built a cabaret act that she had filmed at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. I helped with everything from the poster design to the title to the choreography to the structure and the content.

Her goal was to make it accessible via YouTube and inform folks who are considering going into the church that they should not, as well as inspiring and supporting those trying to get out of the church.

After she posted it, she received many international invitations to perform it at festivals and venues around the world.

Because it is such a painful journey for her to go through emotionally, though of course it has a lot of comedy in it, she turned the invitations down. But she was thrilled that it has gotten all of that attention and is helping folks around the world.

DG: That's a great story. Ros Cohn is a talented lady, and I am sure she made the right decision for herself at that point in her career. Any other cabaret clients with interesting happenings to relate?

JF: Yes, another set of cabaret clients not only did their show in Los Angeles but also at 54 Below a New York, and that was an exciting journey. Two Broadway teens who knew each other during their year on Broadway working in separate shows Matilda, and Annie, came together at last.

DG: What do you feel are your most effective strategies in coaching your students?

JF: I often try to help people give the best possible audition: best vocals in the correct style, clear emotionally full acting choices that also stay within the genre. But if they are going 'outside the box' we practice those choices as well, so in case they are asked for an adjustment, they are ready because they have explored those options.

Many times when we are building a part that a client booked after coaching/callback coachings, we go through the role and I give them the system to look at it not only as an actor, but also as a director to help come up with the smartest and most well rounded choices.

I did that with Sandy Bainum prior to playing Mame back east and also with Talya Sindel to build Esmeralda in Hunchback, which of course got postponed/cancelled due to Corona.

So, right now, I'm weekly coaching my students at California Lutheran University on Cold Reading and Acting and Monologue Prep, plus teaching some voice lessons online and also teaching Tap to my online dance students at CLU.

I am doing live teaching with supplemental training videos I created so the students can drill from those as well as between our sessions. I record the sessions, upload them and share those with the students and also for further study.

Whether already accomplished or yet to come, the projects of Josh Finkel are never ending. For him and his students, creativity most definitely goes on...

For upcoming projects, visit https://ccactingstudio.com/director/#upcoming_director