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Theatre / Spies are Forever

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It's a musical!

"Once a spy, always a spy, forever..."

Spies are Forever is a full-length Musical Comedy created by the Tin Can Brothers (Corey Lubowich, Joey Richter, and Brian Rosenthal), set during the Cold War period.

It is a loving parody of the spy film genre, and also a more serious work than their usual sketch comedies. Special Agent Curt Mega, the pride of the US intelligence community, suffers a tragic blow to his confidence and his career when his partner Owen Carvour is killed in a disastrous mission in 1957. Four years later, he tries to get back into the game and prove he's still the spy he used to be when a deadly nuclear warhead goes missing and ends up on the black market; his mission to retrieve it pits him against a sultry Russian Double Agent, a Nazi conspiracy, and the amoral hired gun known only as the Deadliest Man Alive...

Spies Are Forever ran between March 11 and April 3, 2016, at the NoHo Arts Center in Los Angeles, with a follow-up concert performance of the songs in the show titled Spies Are Forever: Reloaded as part of the late-night programming of the Team Starkid Summer Season at Stage 773 in Chicago, from July 23-25 2016. There was a plan to perform a reunion concert, Spies Are Forever: In Concert at 54 Below, in New York from June 8-9, 2020, which has been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, with plans for a future reunion or a sequel still in the air.

You can watch the show on YouTube here.

Spies are Forever provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The song "Spies Are Forever", in classic James Bond tradition. If you recognize that this sequence is extremely similar to the opening of Goldeneye, you've basically had The Reveal spoiled for you.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Appears in puppet form, no less!
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Barb.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: "One Step Ahead" takes this up to eleven as a joke, with Owen and Curt somehow ending up in the "International Weapons Museum" where they steadily progress through the history of warfare, first dueling with quarterstaves, then longswords, then muskets, before finally coming full-circle back to their original semiautomatic pistols.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: "Natural silicon deposits" aren't hard to find in Real Life at all — the process of manufacturing semiconductor-grade silicon starts with ordinary quartz or sand. The electronics industry is indeed highly dependent on mineral resource extraction, which has fueled many explosive political conflicts over "conflict minerals", but silicon itself is not one of them. (Then again, explaining why exactly CHIMERA's then-futuristic computer network would require large amounts of rare earth metals or coltan might take too long and would probably just introduce further anachronisms.)
  • Artistic License – Geography: The New Democratic Republic of Old Socialist Prussian Sloviskia is obviously fictional, but Prussia is, of course, a real place that's part of Germany, which makes it a little confusing that Dr. Baron von Nazi's German government-in-exile wants to conquer it on Germany's behalf. Presumably this is an Alternate History where Germany broke into a few more pieces than the two halves it was left in after World War II in our timeline.
  • Artistic License – History: A few obvious major examples, like the fictitious New Democratic Republic of Old Socialist Prussian Sloviskia, a female director of the fictional version of the CIA 57 years before the first Real Life female CIA director in 2018, Adolf Hitler having a surviving nephew in Germany trying to carry on his legacy named "Dr. Baron von Nazi", etc. There's also wacky anachronisms like Cynthia using an ASCII emoticon (the smiley ":)") long before their invention in 1982, Baron von Nazi having a rap break in "Nazis Are Not So Bad", etc.
    • The KGB was founded in 1954 and only seven years old in 1961, making it impossible for Tatiana (who is obviously older than eleven) to have been their agent since she was four. Of course, she could just be using the term "KGB" interchangeably with the names of its predecessor agencies (the OGPU, NKVD, etc.)
    • The Real Life National Socialists did not like the abbreviation "Nazi", which was invented as a slur against them, and avoided ever using it while they were in power. Having a noble family called "von Nazi" is extra ironic, since "Nazi" was originally a slang term for a peasant or country bumpkin (a play on the stereotypical Bavarian name "Ignatz").
  • Artistic License – Law: Owen jokes to Cynthia that defecting from the UK to the US would be "treason". This is, technically, not true — "treason" is defined as siding with an enemy nation, and for the UK to declare the US an enemy nation would, to put it lightly, be a pretty big deal. It would, however, create a diplomatic headache that would be pretty bad for his career.
  • Angrish: "and you grew that fucking, UGH, this..! this...!" "Beard?!" "YES! The fucking BEARD!!!"
  • Audience Participation: Baron von Nazi encourages the public to start chanting "Nazis are not so bad!" along with him, only to fall silent and let Curt Mega angrily shame everyone who took him up on it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: As is traditional for a spy thriller, there are multiple nested evil plots revealed as the story progresses. The big one is the reveal that the Fourth Reich is only a front for a much more forward-thinking Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy, CHIMERA.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: A mild example. The opening Theme Tune, "Spies Are Forever" and its reprise, "The Coldest Goodbye", make reference to Agent Curt Mega's relationships with women — "It's time to get the girl again", "Women can't resist him". It's in-universe obfuscation of the fact that he's gay.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: When Owen pretends to be about to shoot Curt but instead shoots out both of Oleg's knees.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Curt grows one after Owen's death and then it is shaved off (forcibly) to symbolise his return to heroism.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: "Introduce him to his death. I will await my cheeseburger, in my bedroom." Justified in that he is leaving him in the hands of The Deadliest Man Alive, who is way more Badass and a much more serious threat than he is.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: "Spies Are Forever" for Curt Mega specifically and for spies in general.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "Didn't you hear the audience chanting?". And also Owen's "we haven't even reached our second act climax yet" is a subtle one.
  • Can't Believe I Said That: "Did he really just use that line?" "Did I just use that line?"
  • Cast as a Mask: Joseph Walker being cast as the Deadliest Man Alive.
  • Casting Gag: A lot of people pointed out that Joe Walker as Richard Big is once more playing a dickish (and big) character literally named "Dick". The ending then reveals that, just as with Joey and Dick in Me and My Dick, Joey Richter and Joe Walker once more are technically playing parts or facets of the same character.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Owen's line "personal history does have its benefits Mega" reveals his identity at the end of the show.
    • Also the bomb Curt is sent to retrieve early on in the show is later used to blow up the surveillance compound, along with the rocket shoe.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The Deadliest Man Alive's henchmen both wear these.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Lauren and Tessa play the Deadliest Man Alive's male henchmen in his first scene, along with a few other minor examples. The Informant's appearance Disguised in Drag is a Bait-and-Switch.
  • Dances and Balls: The World Peace Gala.
  • Dance Battler: Curt and Owen in the first scene and in the penultimate one.
  • Dance Party Ending: The song the cast performs during the Curtain Call, "Spy Dance".
  • Dark Reprise: Done a number of times:
    • "The Coldest Goodbye" is an immediate one to "Spies Are Forever" with the latter accompanying Owen and Curt working efficiently as partners while the former directly follows Owen's "death". It gets arguably an even darker reprise after "One Step Ahead" with Owen singing it as he's about to shoot Curt.
    • "Barb's Lament" is this to a lesser degree to "Pay Attention".
    • "Eyes on the Prize II" is this to "Eyes on the Prize", changing the subject from Cynthia demanding Curt stay focused on the mission to save the world to the casino patrons' various unsavory goals.
  • Dirty Communists: "No, no, no! Cut it out with that Commie bullshit." While the Russians aren't the primary enemy in the story, this is set during the cold war.
  • The Dragon: The Deadliest Man Alive is this coupled with Dragon-in-Chief until he kills the Baron to become the Big Bad and reveals himself to be Owen.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: The Deadliest Man Alive/Owen.
  • Economy Cast: The show has a cast of only 9, with many of the actors doubling up on roles.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: 'One Step Ahead'
  • End of an Age: The ending reveals the theme of the show is the passing away of the glamorous era of Tuxedo and Martini espionage as the world grows more high-tech and automated.
  • Entendre Failure: Curt in the Casino Scene - "We are talking about fighting right?"
  • Evil Brit: Zig Zagged- the Cockney accented DMA is shown as the baddest character until the thickly German accented Dr Baron von Nazi is revealed to be his employer, but then it is revealed that The DMA was pulling von Nazi's strings all along. At the same time we find out that the cockney accent isn't his real voice, however, his real accent is ALSO British, just of the upper class variety.
  • Evil Gloating: "How does it feel to know you'll never catch up with us?"
  • Expecting Someone Taller: "I was looking forward to working with the 'Great Curt Mega,'' but clearly you are not that man." and "I thought you'd be taller y'know?"
  • Expy: The Character Sheet shows that most of the characters are an Expy of a character from James Bond in some way (which have long since become Stock Characters in the spy genre). The Nebulous Evil Organization "CHIMERA" we learn about in The Reveal is one for similar evil conspiracies named after fantasy monsters like Spectre or HYDRA.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Owen
  • Fauxshadow: Tatiana and Curt are teased as a couple throughout Act 1 but decide to stay friends early in Act 2.
    • Similarly, it seems like Barb's crush on Curt might become a major plot point, but it never really gains any significance or develops due to Curt being gay.
  • Femme Fatale Spy: Tatiana, especially in the Casino Scene.
  • Flashback Cut: Hilariously, this show pulls this off in live theatre, with the top of Act 2 (where Curt shows up at the gala) explaining to Cynthia How We Got Here step-by-step, rapidly "cutting" back and forth between the gala and Curt recovering from his gunshot injury in an elevator with Barb several hours earlier. This is accomplished by blacking out the stage for a few seconds with each "cut" and everyone frantically clearing the stage and coming back, with Curt frantically taking off his tuxedo jacket and putting it back on.
  • Fourth Reich: The main plot seems at first like it's going to be about Baron von Nazi trying to create a new National Socialist state in the NDROSPS as a staging point for World War III. It turns out there's a Man Behind the Man — the Deadliest Man Alive — who's only using him for a much more subtle dystopian plot.
  • Get It Over With: Curt in 'The Torture Tango'.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: "You're a cave man, and I've invented fire."
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The KGB and MI6 are called by their real names, but the CIA is never mentioned; Curt is only described as working for the "American secret service".
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Owen wasn't acting alone, and his Island Base datacenter wasn't the only one. The play ends with Curt Mega acknowledging that the rest of CHIMERA is still out there and vowing to take them on in Spies Are Forever 2: Live and Let Spy.
  • Grief Song: "Spy Again"
  • Groin Attack: Tatiana and Cynthia are both fond of these. Or perhaps Curt just has a tendency to provoke them in people.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Tatiana, although she never was truly evil.
  • He's Back!: The theme of the song "Spy Again", although Curt isn't fully back until the opening of "One Step Ahead".
  • Hero vs. Villain Duet: The climax ends in a number between Curt and Owen Carvour while the two engage in physical battle.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: "Oh, and Curt?" shoots him when he turns back
  • Foreshadowing: A subtle one, but the Deadliest Man Alive frequently calling characters 'love' foreshadows that he's actually Owen.
    • There are multiple hints towards Curt's sexuality and relationship with Owen, such as Owen calling him 'love' in the opening number, Curt hesitating before referring to him as 'partner' when talking to Tatiana and the lines "you're not my type" "so you're into-" in 'Doing This'.
  • Historical Domain Character: One of the Nazi chorus line members in "Not So Bad" turns out to be father of rocketry Wernher von Braun himself. (Some brutally satirical Artistic License – History, of course, since by 1961 von Braun was a proud American citizen staunchly proclaiming he'd renounced all Nazi ties since he'd become a born-again Christian.)
  • Historical In-Joke: Cynthia's Newhart Phone Call with Richard Nixon about his loss in the 1960 election, blaming it on not being prepared for a TV debate and "looking like a crook".
  • Hotline: Cynthia has a phone that she uses to contact everyone from Secret Agents in the field to the President of the United States.
  • "I Am" Song: 'Prisoner of My Past' for Tatiana. 'Barb's Lament' has both aspects of this and "I Want" Song for Barb. 'Somebody's Gotta Do It' is this for minor character Sergio and Deadliest Man Alive.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: "You have a mustache!"
  • Incredibly Long Note: The last 'goodbye' in 'One Step Ahead', as well as Barb's "meeee" in 'Pay Attention!'
  • Ironic Echo: Owen singing the line "spies never die" as he's about to shoot Curt. He even laughs a little.
  • Irony: Curt and Owen's exchange of "you'll be the death of me" "I'll never let you down" just before Curt indirectly causes Owen's death.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The Informant "I guess this is where my story ends. In the Old... Socialist... New... Democratic... *dies*"
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: It's all part of the same show, but "One Step Ahead" is very much following this trope, an epic reprise of "Spies Are Forever" as the backdrop of Agent Curt Mega's Final Battle with Owen.
  • Latex Perfection: Owen uses one to disguise himself as the Deadliest Man Alive (played by Joseph Walker).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The words of "The Coldest Goodbye" sound like they're continuing the Bragging Theme Tune of "Spies Are Forever", but the slow, somber tempo completely belies the message and turns it crushingly ironic, reflecting Curt's self-loathing after Owen's death.
    • For a more humorous example, "Somebody's Gotta Do It" is a classic bit of musical irony, a cheery Easy Listening bossa-nova song about being a Punch-Clock Villain who commits horrific atrocities.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Baron is this in his first appearance.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Curt and Tatiana are often the victim of this, especially by Curt's Mum.
    • Also the Informant assumes this as well-"Your boyfriend doesn't seem to think so", much to Barb's horror.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Taken to ridiculous levels in 'Pay Attention!', a portion of which is just the scientists parading ordinary objects that are secretly guns, including an apple.
  • My Greatest Failure: Curt's view of Owen's death.
  • Mythology Gag: Esther Fallick's initial appearance as the Informant, disguised as a waiter, is a Call-Back to the "job interview" interview with Mary Kate Wiles where "Al the Intern" pretends to be a waiter at "TCB headquarters".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Deadliest Man Alive.
  • New Era Speech: Owen's monologue about the new world that will be created by his global surveillance initiative. Doubles as a Breaking Speech against Curt personally.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: "How in the flippity flappity FUCK did a dangerous weapon of mass destruction end up in the hands of a Russian spy, while we are in the middle of a cold war with Russia you fucking dumb-dumb?"
  • Not So Stoic: Tatiana's tearful gratitude after Curt destroys the compound, erasing her history and leaving her free to be with her family.
  • Oblivious to Love: Curt to Barb. But he's not really oblivious, he's just gay.
  • Ode to Intoxication: 'One More Shot' doubles as this as well as a Friendship Song and Misfit Mobilization Moment.
  • Overly Long Name: The New Democratic Republic of Old Socialist Prussian Sloviskia. We get a joke about how the Title Card can't even fit the whole name on the screen and has to unexpectedly shrink the font of the last two words, followed by the Informant passing away in the middle of his Last Words because he couldn't finish saying the name of the country.
  • Patter Song: "Pay Attention" is one giving Tessa Netting the chance to show off her Motor Mouth skills to demonstrate both Barb's genius and Keet personality.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The New Democratic Republic of Old Socialist Prussian Sloviskia is obviously a joke about this. The "new" and the "old" are already obviously oxymoronic, before we get to how it's called a "republic" (a "socialist" one, even) but is officially ruled by a monarch with a prime minister.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Curt and Tatiana.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Taking your advice." and "Here's another thing we don't need."
  • Punch-Clock Villain: "Somebody's Gotta Do It" is a cheesy bossa nova anthem to being one of these, with the subversion that while Sergio is indeed Only in It for the Money, the Deadliest Man Alive is in fact in it For the Evulz.
  • Quick Nip: Curt in the opening number.
  • Reprise Medley: 'The Torture Tango' reprises parts of 'Spies Are Forever', 'Spy Again' and 'Somebody's Gotta Do It'.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Nazis' anachronistic global electronic surveillance system is a pretty unsubtle Take That! to the PRISM program leaked to the public in 2013. Owen's snarky comment about his planned dystopian future where "Everyone's a spy" may be a more general Take That! about the erosion of privacy in the age of The Internet and social media.
    • It's also hard not to see the character of Dr. Baron von Nazi as a Take That! at the rise of the alt-right as a component of Donald Trump's electoral base in 2016, with "Nazis Are Not So Bad" going viral as a mockery of their attempt to softpedal white supremacist ideology.
  • Ruritania: The NDROSPS is somewhere in the "Ruritanian" region of Central or Eastern Europe (presumably someplace that borders or at least is in the proximity of the real-life location of Prussia).
  • Scare Chord: One plays with every appearance and mention of the Deadliest Man Alive. After The Reveal, it continues to play whenever someone references Owen's evil plan for the global surveillance network.
  • Sequel Hook: The show ends with a promise that "Agent Curt Mega will return in... Spies Are Forever 2: Live and Let Spy". (As of 2020, there's still no news about a sequel.)
  • Shared Universe: Potentially with Wayward Guide for the Untrained Eye and The Solve-It Squad Returns!, since Chimera is the parent company of Wayward Guide's Miner Mole Inc., and a character from The Solve-It Squad Returns! is mentioned.
  • Shipper on Deck: Curt's mom, most notably in 'Doing This' ("They're gonna do it!")
  • Ship Tease: For Tati and Curt in 'Doing This'. Parodied when they decide to be Just Friends.
  • Shout-Out: The opening song "Spies Are Forever" includes the line "Die another day", and the ending Sequel Hook says the sequel will be subtitled Live and Let Spy. The title "Spies Are Forever" itself may be one to Diamonds Are Forever.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The advanced Nazi surveillance network, which Owen says is just the beginning of a total surveillance network that will allow him to spy on everything and everyone in the world without limits.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Cynthia. "Aren't you the artful fucking dodger?
  • Spiritual Successor: This show is often counted by Team Starkid fans as an "honorary Starkid musical", seeing it as having the same relationship to the James Bond franchise that Starship does to the works of James Cameron.
  • Spy Versus Spy: Curt vs Owen in the climax.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Heavily invoked with Dr Baron Von Nazi with his Villain Song containing the lines 'The Nazis were not so bad'.
  • Time Skip: The Action Prologue takes place in 1957; the rest of the show takes place in 1961, after four years of Curt wallowing in his grief over Owen's death.
  • Title Drop: The first time a character actually utters the title phrase "Spies are forever," it's Tatiana singing it as a cry of despair in "Torture Tango". It comes back again when Owen says it with cold irony as he's about to execute Curt in the climax, and then ends the show with Curt singing it as a triumphant mission statement in "Spy Again (Reprise)".
  • Title In
  • Torch Song: "Spies Are Forever" is written in this style, as is its immediate Dark Reprise "The Coldest Goodbye". The show even brings in The Chanteuse to sing it.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The reprise of "Spy Again" at the end of the show, for Curt. "Not So Bad (Reprise)" is a villainous version of this for Baron von Nazi.
  • Tuckerization: The Deadliest Man Alive's kill count of 1,147 victims at the start of the show is a reference to the total number of backers Spies Are Forever had on Kickstarter; the Fridge Horror comment that he has a preference for victims "ages 14-22" is a comment about the age range of said backers, and the quick slideshow montage of his victims' faces are directly taken from backers' Kickstarter accounts.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: Curt in the casino scene.
  • Villain Song: Ranging from the goofy "Somebody's Gotta Do It" and "Not So Bad" to the terrifyingly Played Straight "Torture Tango".
  • Villainous Advice Song: 'Not So Bad' to an extent in the first act (even though it fails). The reprise definitely counts.
  • When Harry Met Svetlana: Curt and Tatiana
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The initial Excuse Plot of the stolen nuclear warhead that can be used to hold any city in the world to ransom is obviously a very common plot, but in the James Bond film canon is most similar to Thunderball. Curt Mega's initial encounter with Tatiana and his subsequent relationship with her is drawn from The Spy Who Loved Me, and Tatiana's double-cross at The Casino and confession of being Forced into Evil is from Casino Royale (as is the general plot of a Tuxedo and Martini sequence at The Casino followed by being captured and tied to a chair by a Torture Technician). Finally, the main plot of Owen's role as the true Big Bad is lifted from Alec Trevelyan's relationship with James Bond in Goldeneye.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: "When I got the news that Owen died and you lived..."



Yes, you are bad.

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