Philly Playwright Produces Pandemic Parody

Michael Bihovsky
Michael Bihovsky wrote and starred in a video parody titled “Trapped Inside the House.” It was based on a song from “Les Miserables” and was posted on YouTube last month. (Photo courtesy of Michael Bihovsky)

For Michael Bihovsky, it started with posting jokes to Facebook. From there, he graduated to streaming piano concerts on Facebook Live.

Eventually, the Wynnewood-based musician-writer-performer got the urge to produce something more intricate to pass the time during the quarantine. And then, out of nowhere, it hit him.

“I was just walking around outside on my own and ‘Master of the House’ from ‘Les Miz’ came into my head, and I heard ‘Trapped Inside the House,’” Bihovsky said. “And I made myself laugh and then I was, like, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to actually have to do this now.”

Bihovsky is no stranger to “Les Miserables” parodies. His previous video, “One Grain More,” centered around food allergies. It premiered on YouTube in 2012 and has garnered more than half a million views.

The three-minute “Trapped Inside the House” was produced over three weeks and uploaded to YouTube on April 30. Gags include talking to a poster of Harry Potter, ordering giant yams in the mail and Bihovsky’s favorite joke, a prayer shrine built to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“My main message (with the video) is we have to find something to laugh about. And the disease itself is not funny,” Bihovsky said. “We’re all in this together. We all got to protect not just ourselves, but protect society. And while we do that, we’ll be a lot happier if we can find something to laugh about.”

Bihovsky, 33, stars in the parody, and friends Adam Levinthal and Mary Lyon direct. Keeping with social distancing, Bihovsky had the two remotely control his DSLR camera by connecting it to his computer and using a program called TeamViewer. Bihovsky physically moved the camera throughout his parents’ home, while Levinthal and Lyon focused and hit record from offsite. Bihovsky said it took more than 100 hours to complete.

“It was really wonderful to collaborate with him even though you know, I live in Atlanta and he’s in Philadelphia,” Levinthal said. “But it almost kind of felt like the gang was back together again.”

Bihovsky said his love of “Les Miserables” can be traced to his childhood. Whenever he and his mother would prepare fruit salad for various get-togethers, they would listen to the show’s soundtrack.

“And I would wait very specifically for ‘Master of the House’ because there would be a couple curse words,” Bihovsky said. “And that was the most exciting thing in the world to me at age 5.”

Bihovsky’s mother Anita said her son was “bitten by the musical theater bug” in fifth grade when he acted in the school play “Oliver!” She and Bihovsky’s father make a guest appearance in the parody, which she’s watched “a few dozen times.”

“And he’s such a perfectionist,” she said. “I mean, he probably could have done the whole thing in like a week, but every little detail, and this is how he works, every little detail he goes over and over and over until it meets his very high standards. So it was several weeks because it had to be Michael perfect.”

Bihovsky is an alum of Perelman Jewish Day School and what’s now Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. He graduated magna cum laude from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2009, majoring in musical theater performance and composition with minors in astrophysics and mythology. He also studied orchestration at The Juilliard School.

Bihovsky has written several musicals and composed multiple projects, but one of his most famous gigs was voicing the main character in “Megillas Lester.” The 2014 feature-length animated film follows a boy’s misadventures on Purim and made Bihovsky a celebrity among Orthodox circles, including his relatives in Washington Heights in Manhattan.

He’s now teaching a few voice acting students over Skype, but said, for the most part, “I lost my job basically until all of this is over.”

Once the quarantine is lifted, he hopes to organize productions around Philadelphia of his previous shows. “Fresh!” is a semi-autobiographical musical about his college experience, and “Without End” is a play about his grandparents and Bihovsky’s evolution with different denominations of Judaism.

He’s also working on his next musical, “Senses,” which follows two doctors working to expand the boundaries of modern medicine.

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