The Creation of “One Grain More”

It all began on New Year’s Eve.

 

Mournful of the fact that I would be unable to enjoy any party desserts due to my recently discovered allergy to pretty much everything, I began baking myself some chocolate chip cookies made of neither wheat nor chocolate chips. I was listening to Les Misérables at the time, and as I tend to do, I was singing along, inserting some of my current activities into the lyrics of the song “One Day More.” When I sang the part about “This never-ending road to gluten free,” I immediately cancelled my plans for the evening and started writing.

 

I did my best to include every major food allergy, and researched the various substitutes that are used in each case. Most of these substitutes range from disgusting to flat-out terrifying, and lend themselves to parody just as easily as the Les Mis characters that I decided to use and mock to tell this story.

 

A few hours later, I had finished my first draft of “One Grain More” (my mother actually came up with the title), and made my first call to Lily Bayrock, a multi-talented actress and director who had recently assistant directed scenes from Fresh! in its Off-Broadway presentation. Lily has a number of food allergies herself, and was actually the person most responsible for leading me on the road to getting tested in the first place – so naturally, she was the first person I thought to call.

 

“I’ve written a new song,” I told her. “It’s a parody of Les Mis and food allergies, and you’re either going to think it’s brilliant or that it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.” To my delight and partial shock, she took the former position (having several food allergies herself), and agreed to co-direct the project with me and play the role of Cosette.

 

I then went about casting the other two parts. I had directed Michael DeFlorio in a production of RENT the previous summer, and his powerful voice mixed with his charming silliness were perfect for the role of Marius. My final recruit was Megan Ermilio, a student of mine whom I had seen play Fantine in a production of Les Mis, and whose phenomenal belt and tremendous acting were a sure hit for the role of Eponine (whom Lily brilliantly decided should be named “Epipen”).

 

Unimpressed with the karaoke recordings available, I recorded an original backtrack. The four of us then recorded our vocals, and spent the next few weeks studying our own performances in order to re-create them in filming. (A lot of people have asked if we are lip-syncing in the film; the answer is yes and no. Yes in the sense that in a musical film, you almost always pre-record vocals ahead of time in order to preserve the quality of the soundtrack. No in the sense that the film contains our real pre-recorded voices, and during filming we were still singing at the top of our voices. Just ask our neighbors!)

 

We filmed “One Grain More” in two days across three different locations. The second day involved most of the “night” scenes, and required us to black out the entire house in order to make it look convincingly like evening. This was fun, as it was both a windy and rainy day and the tar-paper we had placed over the windows and skylights had no interest in remaining attached to the house. I also spent a lot of time on a ladder in the backyard with our two incredible production assistants, Matthew Dorsch and Liz Sanders, using a 15-foot pole saw to lift bedsheets over the skylights. Thanks to the wind, we had the opportunity to do this roughly ever fifteen minutes.

 

We had already devised a detailed shot list ahead of time, and since we only had one camera to work with, Lily and I had gone through every shot one at a time to determine exactly which angle each shot would be filmed from. But the credit for the perfect clarity and beautiful framing and lighting of the shots really belongs to Dena Blumenthal and Bernie Langer, without whom “One Grain More” would probably look extremely grainy (haha). Somehow (I think by magic), the two of them managed to make everything look phenomenal using only two portable lights. We also owe a lot of thanks to Matthew and Liz, who in addition to their manual labor kept a keen eye on continuity, and kept us singing at something resembling the right time.

 

Lily and I split the directing, working together on group shots or scenes with just Michael and Megan, and waving authority to the other in any shot where one of us was on camera so that we wouldn’t have to direct ourselves. Dena and Bernie would spend about 20 minutes setting up the lighting of each shot, and then coming up with creative ways to keep the lights from falling and burning the house down. Often this required one or two of us to hold the lights, Statue-of-Liberty-style; this meant that our hands were frequently burned, but at least the house was okay. One of the amazing things about the people involved in this production is that even though we each have our specific credits, every one of us shared each others’ responsibilities during the shoot. The directors held the lights; the lighting designer acted; the actors went up on ladders to block out the light; the camera operator/editor directed. Without that collaborative atmosphere, there is no way this project could have turned out the way it did.

 

All in all, “One Grain More” is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when you assemble a team of talented, passionate, funny people who love what they do and the work that they create. I am so proud of the ridiculous piece that we have created and the attention that it has been getting. I would also like to thank “millet” – I’m still not sure what it is, but if it hadn’t provided me with the opportunity to make gluten free cookies, none of this could have happened.

 

**UPDATE**

If you would like to acquire a “One Grain More” DVD, blooper reel, and/or a poster poster signed by the entire cast, check out the fundraising campaign for my original musical Fresh!

 

The Cast and Crew of
From left to right: Dena Blumenthal, Michael Bihovsky, Megan Ermilio, Lily Bayrock, Michael DeFlorio, and Bernie Langer
(Not pictured: Matthew Dorsch and Liz Sanders)

27 Responses to “The Creation of “One Grain More””

  1. frank franklin says:

    Michael
    I enjoyed your clever video musical “One grain more”. Is it possible to get a copy of the lyrics as I missed some of the words?
    Thank you,
    Frank

  2. Hi Frank! All lyrics are posted in the description of the video on YouTube. In the description, simply click “show more,” and you’ll see them. Glad you enjoyed the video!

  3. Jane says:

    Just want to say thanks for this item. Really enjoyed it and so often there is no fun in food allergies. Cheers.

  4. Karen says:

    Hi, I read about this in the City Suburban News, checked it out on YouTube and think it’s brilliant and hilarious. Excellent writing, singing and performing. I don’t have food allergies, thankfully, but I am familiar with all the foods mentioned, and it’s all so funny. Well done!

  5. Matt says:

    Can’t … Stop … Watching!!! Please do start to publicize this, I’ve started passing it around within the paleo community as best I can.

  6. Sue says:

    Fabulous, fabulous! The writing & performances and…everything!! As someone who is in misery dealing with dietary restrictions AND waiting for the Les Miserables movie in December, I just loved finding this! Just one tiny aside…Jean Valjean lived at Rue Plumet in 1832. Otherwise this is perfect in every way.

  7. This video is pure genius. You have a gift, and now I’m a fan.

  8. Kathe Simons says:

    Thank you SO very, very much for this brilliant parody! Les Miz is my favorite (seen it 5 times!) show and yes, dealing with these food allergies is the PITS. Thanks for lightening the load!

  9. Allison says:

    I stumbled across a link to your video on Facebook. I am completely awestruck by everyone’s talent! Such wonderful, amazing, inspiring work. As an ex-Stage Manager and present Pastry Chef, this tugged at my heartstrings in a truly unique way!

  10. Jeff Swafford says:

    “One Grain More” has left me speechless! … only because I couldn’t stop laughing when I watched it! I love Les Miz and actually applauded when your song was over… never done that for a YouTube video… EVER! I’m slowly getting back into singing and am incredibly impressed by the sounds I heard. Thank you so much!

  11. Michael says:

    Thank you all SO much for your incredible comments – I’m so glad you enjoyed the video, and it was so nice of you to let me know. Rock on!! (Unless you’re allergic to rock)

  12. Brandon Burt says:

    For some time, I’ve been worried that the art of parody is dead. Since the Ancient Greeks, parody has been a powerful literary and dramatic mechanism for social change. Unfortunately, all too often these days, it seems what passes for “parody” is just a random series of disjointed, anemic, half-assed pop-culture references.

    But “One Grain More” — in so carefully following the score to the Les Mis Act I finale (and with such brilliant, on-point lyrics!), has entirely renewed my faith in the human spirit!

    Viva la parodie! And thank you so much, Michael.

  13. Connor Long says:

    Bravo, Michael! I have Celiac and think it is very funny and the singing is very good, too !

  14. Bob Podel says:

    Michael

    I just found and watched “One Grain More” 6 times! As someone with Celiac, I thought it was FABULOUS. One question – any chance of posting or getting the lyrics? My hearing is not great – I have tinnitus – and have trouble understanding some of the words especially when multiple characters are singing at the same time.

    PS
    Are you from Philly? I live in Phoenix now but was born in Philly & lived there until I was almost 30.

    Thanks again for that great video.

    Bob

  15. Scraps says:

    Just saw One Grain More via the Fooducate blog and it was amazing! Bravo and best of luck to you (in music and allergy-free eating).

  16. Mary says:

    I love it I needed a good laugh. It reminded me of first time I tried cooking Corn pasta. Let’s just say it’s taken 3 years to get the ropes.

  17. Neil says:

    Bravo …. as a lover of Les Miserables, who tries in his amateurish way to sing along, and as the husband of a wife who has celiac and medically needs to be gluten-free, I enjoyed this parody on so many levels.

    The first, just to hear such great voices singing the lyrics, second the lyrics are a perfect fit to the melody, and third, our kitchen has almost every non-gluten grain that you filmed.

    Again .. BRAVO !!!!

  18. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for making us laugh! My 7 year old is allergic to a lot of foods, and it was fun to show her the video.
    We both take a nutritional supplement called Reliv, and it’s helped us so much I now have my own business with the company. Immune system support as well as proper nutrient absorption is key when there are allergies. I used to ha e an air purifier but now don’t need it thanks to the products. Please get in touch if you would like to hear more.

  19. LINDA NEUWIRTH says:

    PURE GENIUS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR VOICES AND FOR YOUR CREATIVITY!!

  20. Marrus says:

    This is WONDERFUL. I’ve posted it on my FB fan page, and on Wheat Belly’s page, and the Peacebaker’s page – a DF/GF/vegan bakery here in New Orleans. Thank you for singing so poignantly about such a painful subject;)

  21. Alison says:

    1) You are ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT.

    2) The singing and acting in your video are phenomenal.

    3) For the first time in my life, I literally laughed until I cried.

    4) I am a professional violinist with celiac, with 3 kids; 2 have celiac and the youngest has “only” gluten intolerance, and my oldest celiac kid LIVES for musical theater. He was in his school’s production of Les Mis 2 years ago. Your video means more to me than I can possibly express in words–THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! If any of you are ever touring in Pittsburgh, please let me know and I will invite you over for an allergy-free dinner.

  22. What a delight to find this hilarious video. I have no allergies whatsoever but can still appreciate such a brilliant parody of my favorite show!

  23. Grammadog1947 says:

    Just watched “One Grain More” and laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks! It was brilliant on every level.

  24. OMG – this is FANTASTIC!!!!! We’ve been gluten-free since April, 2008, when our youngest daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (and we subsequently realized that several other family members have gluten issues as well).

    Thank you so much for the (belly) laughs! I’m devoting a post at my blog to your cute video (it sounds better than you might think – a grand total of 25 extra people might see it….)

    Great job by all involved – amazing talent all around!

  25. FMJohnson says:

    What Brandon Burt said — this is parody worthy of the greats.

  26. April says:

    My children and I suffer from several food allergies & celiac. Needless to say cooking is an adventure. We all love this parody so much that we can’t get it out of our heads. I have sent the link to many friends & family with allergies. My 9 year old sings it constantly. Thank you for a good laugh. It would be helpful if you posted the words on this blog…

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