June 17, 2022
The Broadway Exchange’s Q+A with Savannah-Lee Mumford
I think something that Barb has taught me as a person- Stranger Sings Barb, our Barb- is that it’s okay to speak up for yourself, and it is okay to celebrate the things that make you unique, and also that you shouldn’t take no for an answer, and always stand up for yourself. Which is the true justice that Barb deserved.
BWAYX: Hi, Savannah-Lee!
SL: How are you?
BWAYX: I’m good! Thank you so much for doing this.
SL: Oh my gosh, thank you for having me! This is so exciting.
BWAYX: Yeah! Welcome everyone, let’s get into it! So, Savannah-Lee Mumford stars as Barb in Stranger Sings the Parody Musical, and recently you are starring in the Broadway Exchange digital collectible, Barb’s Turn! Such an exciting time.
SL: So exciting. Brand new things arising every day.
BWAYX: Yeah, it’s awesome. So, what has been your experience being able to play a character that is so loved internationally?
SL: You know, it’s super humbling, is the obvious answer, but it is the realest answer. The amount of people that come into our show just to see if we will do something with Barb’s story is just fantastic, and to be able to then actually show people our unique, and my unique spin on the character, and then get to take it on a different fork than the TV show ever could? It’s pretty spectacular. And the audiences have been so lovely and excited. It makes me so excited to be able to bring Barb justice.
BWAYX: Yeah, justice for Barb! Yeah, that is so amazing. Your performance is so magnetic, and you bring such life to the character. It’s so exciting to be able to see this character in a new lens. Were you a fan of the TV show before joining the musical?
SL: Yeah, I was. I was not nearly as big a fan as our writer Johnathan Hogue was, I mean, I didn’t write a musical about it, unfortunately. I’m wishing I had now. But I was a big fan. Everything that Stranger Things is, is really exciting to all of my interests, but one of the biggest things that I love so much about it is that it did make me feel connected to my mom and the nostalgia that comes from that 80s trope. I’m watching those movies that she grew up with as well. It just made me feel very connected to her, so it’s super cool that I get to embody that on stage as well.
BWAYX: Yeah, I totally feel that. My mom is actually from Indiana.
SL: Oh, wow!
BWAYX: So that one cuts deep.
SL: Yeah I totally feel that. And the nostalgia factor that comes with this series is insane.And I feel like the first season rode off that E.T. and Ghostbusters nostalgia, and every season since has gotten so much more unique and they’ve found their own voice just that much more every season. You know, maybe it makes our show, as well, feel like a part of the universe, because it is so unique in its own voice as well.
BWAYX: One hundred percent. What are you most excited about for Stranger Sings in its growth going forward?
SL: Yeah, I think the greatest gift this show has given me is the collaborative nature, and not just going in, like “we’d love to hear your suggestions!” Like, Jonathan and Nick and the creative team all are genuinely invested in what we bring to these characters. And the script that Jonathan wrote also has a lot of room for our own interpretations. And to be able to give… “the world,” but, yeah, I guess the world now, Australia and London!- give the world this beautiful collaborative nature and be able to have Jonathan’s voice and everyone’s voice on the soundtrack and show out there for the world to see is just so cool. This show is just so different. What we have on the soundtrack and what Australia and London’s gonna find and what any other production finds is so different from what we’ve found way back in 2018. It’s evolved and grown so much and it just makes me so excited to see what else there is. Because every day we mined for something new, because there’s room for that, and it’s lovely and it’s like a birthday gift every day I go into rehearsals.
BWAYX: That’s so awesome. Yeah, it’s so exciting that Stranger Sings is moving to an international productions with Australia and with London. I’m sure they’re going to have all the fun. What is your favorite backstage moment that you can recall?
SL: Oh, man. There’s too many to pick, but I guess if I had to pick one, Ariana who plays Nancy in the most recent Off-Broadway production- sorry, she plays Nancy/ Eleven- she would come backstage into our dressing room every single day and she tried to get us all to order food together. Because she’s this big, she’s miniature, you could put her in your pocket, but that girl can woof down some dinner, And she always wanted to know if we all wanted to get dinner with her. So it was like the guessing game of like, what was Ariana going to come in and be like “Can we have…” like, what is she gonna want today? And being in the East Village, there was so much to pick from, so we never knew. It was just such a fun little game to play, like what is she going to pick today.
BWAYX: So fun. Yeah, going into the characters, what is something that you found within Barb in your own portrayal that you think more people should know about? When thinking about this iconic character, at this point.
SL: Yeah. God, again, there’s so many things that this character has given me. I think one of the things that I’ve mined for and realized about Barb is I really do think she’s a queer person, and I as a queer person, too… it’s been really eye opening to see that in her. And I think the world should know, too, that this girl’s so horny. She’s so horny. The world needs to know, like, poor Barb, she just needs to, you know. And so it’s been fun to find these layers of her that the show did not explore, but I do think one that’s really real and that I’ve enjoyed silently discovering, it’s not like a part of our show by any means, but something that makes me feel connected to her is her queerness, and what that means to her. And again, there’s nothing written in our show about that, but it’s my own little actor mining thing that I’ve done.
BWAYX: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. If I could think of one word to describe Barb, I would say repressed.
SL: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I think something our show does so well is they allow that repression to be burst out and she gets to have her own moment, her voice can be heard. We truly do get that justice.
BWAYX: Yeah. And I think that’s so great, it’s giving that voice to a character that, as the world felt, was done too soon.
SL: Yeah! And never had a voice throughout, even when she was there. She still didn’t have a voice. I think something that Barb has taught me as a person- Stranger Sings Barb, our Barb- is that it’s okay to speak up for yourself, and it is okay to celebrate the things that make you unique, and also that you shouldn’t take no for an answer, and always stand up for yourself. Which is the true justice that Barb deserved. I mean, it’s fun to see her redeemed in such a fun way that we get in our show, but the true justice is speaking up for the little man, and allowing yourself to not be beat down by the people that say that they care about you, and they don’t. And I think that’s something that all of us can really resonate with.
BWAYX: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s such an important message to send, especially during pride month.
SL: Yeah. Absolutely. I agree.
BWAYX: Shifting gears a little bit, what was it like to now be starring as a digital collectible, as a digital collectible, and be seeing yourself as a trading card?
SL: I mean, it’s been really, again, nostalgic. I think this is such a great platform for something like Stranger Sings to be on, because of the nostalgia factor that is Stranger Things. And I know that the first thing I felt was the excitement of having a musical theater collectible. I know my best friend Kat Shaw, she and I would always- maybe we shouldn’t have been doing it but- illegally download musicals and stuff, back in the day, and we would trade them between each other. That was such a big part of our high school time together, and I just imagine having something like this in that time, how much we would have geeked out over it. And the fact that I am now a part of that little fandom is wild. And so exciting. High school me would have been drooling. It’s super cool. And the artwork is so beautiful. I mean, the digital artwork is really cool. They did such a good job of it.
BWAYX: Yeah. Our designers are the best. They’re amazing. Yeah, I think it’s such a great way for your artistry and this character that you’ve crafted to live on forever, and be a part of your story forever, which is great.
SL: It is so cool. And now of course we have the Crazy card as well, that Caroline is on, and she plays Joyce. And that one looks so cool and I’m so excited to see what other cards come out. It’s going to be cool.
BWAYX: Yeah. Totally agree. So, going to the international productions, and connecting it to Barb… if Barb lived long enough to travel- to study abroad, if you will- if she went to the U.K., what is the first thing she would do there?
SL: See, listen. We need to talk about, before she even gets to the U.K. what would happen. Barb sees all of the guidebooks, she read all of them, she studies them, she brings her favorite one, and everyone on the plane has been hearing her constantly talk about all of these cheesy tourist sites that she has to go to- she is the most American person on the flight from America to London. You know? I think the first thing she’s going to stop and do, she’s going to go to a little kiosk and get the British flag shirt that’s covered from seam to seam in the flag. And those little flags that you can carry around and take pictures in front of the monuments, just beaming, like “Oh my god!” You know? She’ll revel off of it for six months.
BWAYX: Yeah, amazing. I’m picturing her wearing it around Hawkins, her U.K. shirt just everywhere.
SL: Oh my gosh, yeah. The inside of her locker is covered with U.K. stickers.
BWAYX: She’s like, did you guys hear that I went to the U.K.? Did you hear that?
SL: Yes. And everyone’s like, yes. That’s all you talked about for the past two years.
BWAYX: So, same question but Australia. Similar vibe.
SL: I want to put this out there that I think Barb would be truly the most touristy person, and she would go to these countries assuming that she’s going and finding, oh this is actual Australian culture. This is truly London culture, when it’s like going to Times Square in New York and being like, I know what New York is. So she’s going to go, and for some reason I feel like she is a Priscilla Queen of the Desert fan, like a super fan, has posters, re-watches it all the time at sleepovers, so she’s going to go and try to seek out all of the places that Priscilla Queen of the Desert shot and she is going to be wildly disappointed that it’s not what she thought it was. And then she’s going to go to the Sydney opera house.
BWAYX: Amazing. Amazing. Okay. Kiss marry kill, Nancy, Steve, and the Demogorgon.
SL: Okay. I’m going to ruffle some feathers here, but I’m going to kill Steve, kiss Nancy, and I’m going to marry the demogorgon.
SL: I know. Crazy.
BWAYX: Why marry the Demogorgon?
SL: I mean, listen. The Demogorgon has been with me through thick and thin, throughout my time in the Upside Down, and I think he’s my main man, you know? He’s my best friend, he’s my partner in crime. But Nancy, I think I have a lot of suppressed emotions for Nancy, and I also don’t think I could deal with her in a marriage. I would choose to jump off the diving board eventually I think.
BWAYX: Yeah. No, that makes sense. Now, an important world building question. Is the upside down in Australia actually the right side up?
SL: Well, okay. I’m going to answer your question with a question. I will say, do the toilets flush the opposite way? Because then I think that answers your question. Isn’t that the lore of Australia? That the toilets flush the opposite way?
BWAYX: It’s true! It’s true lore.
SL: It’s a true lore? Well then the answer’s yes!
BWAYX: My brother in law is from New Zealand, so I can report.
SL: I love New Zealand. I want to go so bad. That is so cool. So, yes. The upside down is the right side up in Australia.
BWAYX: You heard it here first.
SL: *sings* On the right side up. Oh man.
BWAYX: Amazing. So, what is next for you?
SL: So, I just graduated with my Master’s from Northern Illinois University, so I’m in a little bit of a transitional state. I’ve got a couple of things that are like, bubbling, but things haven’t been signed on the dotted lines quite yet. But in the meantime, I have a podcast with my friend that I mentioned earlier, it’s called This Podcast Won’t Run A Week, it’s a musical theater podcast that we release every two weeks. It’s so fun, and so stupid, and I love it so much. You can catch me there all the time. We’ve got a year and a half of episodes up.
BWAYX: That is amazing. Congratulations on graduating, congratulations on your podcast. That’s so exciting.
SL: I’ll take that. Thank you.
BWAYX: Thank you everyone for tuning in, and for getting justice for Barb.
BWAYX: The Broadway Exchange is so excited to be making collectibles for these amazing artists, and these amazing characters, and giving them the spotlight.
SL: Thank you so much for having me, I so appreciate it. This was so nice.
BWAYX: This was great. Thank you!
SL: Bye, justice for Barb!
The full recording of this Q+A is only available to our collectors in The Green Room.