The long anticipated new musical from Second Generation (2g), The Wedding Banquet, finally opened on August 8, 2003 in Taipei, Taiwan to raving reviews. With the Taipei and Tainan leg of the tour completed, the crew has now gone on to share their song and dance with audiences in Singapore, after which they will debut in the US in Seattle. Thus far, feedback from audiences and the team has only been positive. "The audiences have been warm and laugh a lot, and they are growing in number," Brian Yorkey, author and lyricist, reports from Taipei. It is hard to imagine that Welly Yang, (Artistic Director of 2g who also plays the protagonist, Wai Tung in the show) ever had any doubt about their efforts. During rehearsals out on the west coast at the Seattle Center House in July, Welly told a Singapore Business Times reporter that "rehearsals are going so frighteningly well, something must be wrong!"
While no one claims that it is perfect, things are far from wrong. "We are learning a lot as we go, but the bottom line is, we began with a great tale, and it's serving us well", says Brian. The tale is adapted from Ang Lee's acclaimed movie The Wedding Banquet and explores the familiar but still relevant clash between East/West, tradition/liberation, individual/society. In creating the musical, certain aspects of the story had to be modified to bring the piece, which was originally written 16 years ago, up-to-date. The process is constant. Even as thousands are viewing the show, changes are constantly being orchestrated. "We're working every day to condense, clarify, and define," explains Brian.
Work has been non-stop from the moment the team landed in Taipei's Chiang Kai Shek International Airport on August 3. After getting through customs, who became suspicious of the two accompanying 5-foot high cases (merely containing projectors for Chinese subtitles projections), rehearsals began on the 4th . Technical rehearsals went underway on the 6th and 7th and the show opened to eager audiences on the 8th.
Since then, scenes and songs that are a mixture of old and new have pleasantly surprised the audience. The show blends both Western and Eastern influences to reflect the cultures of the family in the show, by including a gospel tune and a huge tai chi number in Central Park performed by the entire cast. The audience clearly loves it. "Your lyrics are meaningful and touching, your scores are just incredible. My friends were laughing throughout the night," e-mails Jeffrey, who just saw the show in Singapore. "This is a refreshing, complete, outstanding musical," he stressed. Word from the Far East is that people crowd around each night after the show to stock up on The Wedding Banquet CD as well as the program.
When he agreed to direct the show, John Tillinger expressed his hopes that The Wedding Banquet will "humor people, move people, and ultimately, just give people a good time." He added, "We go through this very painful and difficult process to entertain a few people for two and a half hours." After weeks of performances, it is clear that his hopes have become a reality.