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Psych The Musical: Notes from Comic-Con 2013

Swag from "Psych: The Musical"

Living in Los Angeles, I've been in a long line before, waiting to see the second to the last episode of a certain show. That night in Burbank was filled with memories that some day will make sense. Sleep deprivation makes it all hazier than a smoggy day in L.A. In Pasadena, overnighters on the sidewalk are a New Year's Eve tradition and something that many Southern Californians, like myself, are familiar with. San Diego Comic-Con has a similar tradition, but usually for the dreaded H Hall line. I was preparing for something different--a line to see a special episode for a TV show set in Santa Barbara but filmed in British Columbia: "Psych: The Musical."

After packing all night Tuesday and getting a short 2-hour cat nap, I left Los Angeles for San Diego and Comic-Con International at 7am-ish with my two collies. That wasn't early enough to miss the beach traffic down Huntington Beach way (Bolsa Chica). Listening to tango music and dog sighs on the freeway, I finally pulled into my hometown of Chula Vista before 11am, only to find out on Facebook that my wait-in-line buddy wouldn't be making it. After some re-shuffling, I was off to a late start to stand in line for ""Psych: The Musical."

By 3 p.m., there was already a long line at the Reading Cinema, winding around the corner and up the street and around the other corner. When I worried if we would get in, the person in line behind me, Michael from South Carolina, assured me that he had already asked and was told we would. Capacity for the theater was about 2,500 and we were about in the 400-odd range. I would later find out that Psych-o's had started lining up at 10am, although the official beginning time for the line was 2pm The screening was open to the public and not limited to Comic-Con pass holders.

Michael was alone—his buddy had suffered an accident which prevented him from taking more time off of work. The woman in front of me, Jenni, was waiting for two other women. The best way to stand in line is with friends who can spell you, entertain you and keep you sane, as sane as can be for someone doing an all-night wait.

Heading into its eighth season, "Psych" is a comedy series about a highly observant man with eidetic memory, Shawn Spencer (James Roday), who is forced to pretend he is psychic to avoid arrest. His best friend, Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) is the responsible one, but is pulled into the investigations which usually revolve around murder. They open up a private detective agency and are consultants for the Santa Barbara police department working with the skeptical Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Shawn's love interest Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson).

Just before 4 pm, a line management person for "Psych" came around and warned us that if our buddies weren't there in an hour, they would have to go to the end of the line. At 4pm, another person told a woman just a dozen people down that this would start at 4:30pm at the latest. I frantically called my husband, telling him to get downtown as soon as possible. He arrived at about 4:30-ish, but the actual handing out of the VIP color-coded wristbands didn't start until 5:30pm In the group just behind us, one person had gone to find a restroom, but it was too late. He was out and would have to go to the end of a very, very long line.

Once we had our wristbands, I left my husband in line to go a few blocks down to the Convention Center and pick up my press pass for Comic-Con and get "the object of my desire," look around and take some photos. When I returned to the line, it was near 8 pm and time for lunch or dinner. Line management had some problems. When the line was consolidated, we weren't allowed to sit in our chairs and were forced to stand. That's the bad part.

The good part is that "Pysch" showed that it cared for its Psych-o's. There was a crew of women dressed in skirts and "Psych" shirts who came around periodically on roller skates to hand out swag: green Mardi Gras beads (No, mom...I didn't have to flash anyone), iPod button stickers that some people used to decorate their faces, slap-on bracelets in the distinctive "Psych" green, a small can of pineapple juice and "Psych" buttons with a few choice Burton Guster pseudonyms. The crowd roared when two Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles drove past with the cast. The fictional character Shawn Spencer once worked as an Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. There are only eight Wienermobiles in existence; two have ties to Santa Barbara.

Then the entire cast came by to show their appreciation, Dulé Hill giving high-fives and James Roday patting people on their shoulders. A lucky few got photos taken with the stars. I missed my chance when a woman asked me to take a photo with her camera. Soon enough, we were let in the theater, past the 10pm announced time. We were given green stickers for theater assignments and a lanyard with a photo of a different cast member. About 2,400 fans had waited in line for this special viewing. Each person was given a bag of popcorn and a drink of their choice.

In the theater, fans were rewarded with more swag: sunglasses with "Psych: The Musical" written on them, various candy and T-shirts. On the screen, trivia questions were shown as well as clips from previous shows. When the two episodes finally were shown there were a few surprises and a few disappointments. Because Cary Elwes was the moderator of a panel discussions some fans expected the debonair Pierre Despereux to make an appearance. Instead, Ally Sheedy returned as Mr. Yang. Roday sings well enough and his dancing, of the tango (American-style) was in character. Don't expect him to be on "Dancing with the Stars." Timothy Omundson who plays Carlton "Lassie" Lassiter (no relation to the dog) has a beautiful voice.

At the press conference round table the next day Roday reminded reporters that unlike a movie, this special two-hour episode had less than a month for preparation and filming unlike a movie.

Elwes commented about Roday and Hill, saying, "The chemistry between these two guys is phenomenal" and that they are totally "comfortable improvising." Yet he also stated that there were no plans for alluding to his "Princess Bride" past or swordsmanship in future episodes.

When asked if he had helped Roday with his dance movies, Hill replied that he didn't but that Roday did what every dancer should do, he made the moves his own. Before he was Charlie Young on "The West Wing," Hill had been on Broadway as a performer in the Tony Award-winning 1996 "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk " which tells black history through tap (choreography by Savion Glover). Hill is a natural for a musical episode but Roday used Shawn Spencer's personality to match up to him.

"Psych: The Musical" will air on December 15, 2013 and is about a musical that, due to a murder, never opens, but years later, plans are made to resurrect that same musical for a production at a Santa Barbara theater. Tony Award-winning Barry Bostwick (the original Danny Zucko for the Broadway production of "Grease" and Brad Majors in cult movie "Rocky Horror Picture Show") and Ally Sheedy guest star. I won't spoil the fun for other fans and after so little sleep the details are a little hazy except for that tango.

Waiting in line is a common experience at Comic-Con. Someone told me people started lining up for H Hall the day before. Last year a reporter got in line at 4am for an afternoon panel. What "Psych" did was make the wait and their two-day appearance at Comic-Con a special fan event that included not only the pre-screening of the two-hour episode, but also a fan-vote for a storyline for season eight which was revealed at the Thursday panel. Fans who didn't attend Comic-Con had an opportunity to be involved. The winning episode was "A Nightmare on State Street" (State Street is the main road in Santa Barbara.). The episode has Burton Guster entering dream therapy due to a sudden rash of night terrors.

In the end, the wait was all relative. We waited for about nine hours. The rest of the Psych-o's will wait months. I think my biggest regret will be that I didn't get the cast signatures (limited signing on Thursday morning by lottery) and, on the delusional side, that I won't get to tango with either Roday or Omundson (I'm a horrible tap dancer).

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, and the Pasadena Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

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