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a Phineas and Ferb parody musical by Andrew Grabowski

Inspired by the original Disney Channel/XD series by Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh

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Written by Andrew Grabowski, Musical Without a Cool Acronym lovingly parodies the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb. The musical is centered on Candace Flynn, a determined teenager who sets out to find the cause of her misfortune after a summer of failed attempts to bust her brothers. Songs in M.W.C.A. come from Phineas and Ferb as well as several famous Broadway musicals, with rewritten lyrics to fit the show's characters and scenarios.

Produced virtually by Andrew Grabowski and Taylor Renee Castle from December 2020-August 2021

Poster illustrated by Carly Heilman

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Musical Without a Cool Acronym

Musical Without a Cool Acronym - A History
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Screengrab from Phineas and Ferb (© Disney).

     Andrew grew up watching the beloved cartoon Phineas and Ferb ever since its debut on the Disney Channel in 2007. On account of its memorable characters, witty comedy, and catchy songs, it stood out in Andrew's consciousness, and he hoped to one day create something that showcased his love for the show. Nearly nine years later, Andrew attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and found a theatre organization that specialized in student-written shows. After performing in a Kim Possible parody musical, the idea struck that he should write one based on Phineas and Ferb. The goal was to lovingly recreate what made the animated series tick and translate it to the live stage. It would feature several popular songs from the cartoon, as well as songs from Broadway shows with rewritten lyrics to match the story and characters of Phineas and Ferb. The plot, while written as though it could easily occur within the Phineas and Ferb canon, would be original, placing the characters in unique scenarios never fully explored in the original series. After three years of working on the script, Andrew finally had the opportunity to produce and direct Musical Without a Cool Acronym through the UMBC AF Theatre Company in Spring 2019.

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Photos from the live action college performance of M.W.C.A. (credit Ian Feldmann/Baltimore Camera Vision).

     M.W.C.A. premiered in May 2019 and was well received by the family, friends, and fellow students who attended. That summer, a recording of the show was uploaded to YouTube, catching the attention of Phineas and Ferb fans as well as original series creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. In August 2019, Andrew had the opportunity to meet Dan and Swampy at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, and thank them for supporting the fanmade musical.

     In the summer of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Phineas and Ferb movie Candace Against the Universe was digitally released on Disney+, serving as the first official Phineas and Ferb revival since the original series ended in 2015. To market the film, Dan Povenmire heavily utilized his TikTok channel, and in doing so ushered in a resurgence of Phineas and Ferb fan content on the platform. Tangentially, Andrew reprised his role as Major Monogram from M.W.C.A. to create several short TikTok videos, and soon found the account of popular Disney cosplayer Taylor Renee Castle, who had been creating similar content by dressing as Candace. Eager to perform during a dry spell of live theatre, Taylor suggested Andrew revive M.W.C.A. to produce the show in a virtual format. The two assembled a production team and used TikTok to advertise online auditions for the show. By December 2020, they had received more than 200 auditions, and cast more than 50 actors spread across the United States, Canada, Argentina, Thailand, and China in what was now a very large-scale virtual revival M.W.C.A.

     Rehearsals for M.W.C.A. - Virtual Edition began in January 2021. The show was originally planned to premiere live in April, interspersing a broadcast of the live Zoom performance with pre-recorded musical segments. Later in the production, the show’s format was readapted to be entirely pre-recorded in order to allow more time for editing and polish on the songs. Still, the non-musical scenes had to be filmed in real time, meaning the 26 core actors had to remotely meet for a full week in April. Each actor provided their own costume, props, lighting, green screen, webcam, and microphone to record everything from their own homes, which were geographically spread across six different time zones. The show’s “tech week” wrapped on April 10th, officially transitioning M.W.C.A. into post-production.

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     The editing team of M.W.C.A. spent the following four months piecing together thousands of clips submitted by the cast to create full-length music videos of the 18 songs in the show. Audio recordings for the songs were done via Soundtrap, then mixed together by the sound team. Actors would then record and upload videos of themselves acting, dancing, and lipsyncing the songs in front of a greenscreen. The video team took these clips, removed the green backgrounds using chroma keys and compositing software, synced them up to the mixed songs, and meticulously arranged them to present the songs in a cohesive manner. Most backgrounds were lifted from Phineas and Ferb, which often entailed removing the cartoon characters from the original scenes using Photoshop. In some instances, entirely new backgrounds were drawn by M.W.C.A. art designer Carly Heilman to convey settings that never appeared on Phineas and Ferb. The end result was a very unique format - part theatre, part cartoon, part live action movie.

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