In just two short months, Second Generation's long anticipated new musical The Wedding Banquet will open in Taiwan.
Based on the acclaimed movie directed by Ang Lee, The Wedding Banquet centers on the life of gay Taiwanese American Wai Tung, and his Caucasian partner, Simon. To fend off Wai Tung's parents who are eager to marry off their only son, a plan is conceived for Wei Tung to marry their friend Wei Wei. Events take a complicating turn when Wai Tung's parents joyfully arrive from Taiwan to attend their son's wedding.
Recently, the actors portraying the roles of Wai Tung, Simon, and Wei Wei completed a recording of an EP album of five songs that will be distributed by Sony Taiwan. Creating the EP was no small feat, since it was preceded by years of songwriting. The very first song, titled, "The Perfect Woman" (a duet in which Wai Tung and Simon describes "the perfect woman" to please Ma Gao), came to be before the book was even written. As composer Woody Pak attests, writing a musical is a "process that involves many different people and processes." It is no surprise then that Welly Yang (co-book writer) enlisted his trusted and talented collaborators from Making Tracks, Woody and lyricist Brian Yorkey, to work on this new project.
While there are no clear, step-by-step guidelines to writing a musical, writers work with the goal of entertaining and impacting audiences' memories, emotions, and thoughts with their songs and words. They want audiences to feel the emotions of the characters through their songs, and then to be humming the tunes long after they leave the theater. To achieve this goal for The Wedding Banquet, Woody and Brian work closely together. Once the team (Welly, Brian, and Woody) decides what moments in the script to musicalize, the writing begins. Sometimes Brian writes a lyric and gives it to Woody to compose music, and other times the reverse occurs. In some cases, Brian might write some words for a hook and pass it on to Woody to build his tune before Woody hands it back to Brian to finish the lyrics. Whichever way it starts, it always ends with the two sitting together, Woody on his guitar or the piano, working through the song, tweaking words and notes, elaborating, and simplifying. And most certainly, it is never just one sitting.
As Woody says, "a musical goes on forever; writing it is only the beginning." What follows is orchestration, choreography, and a myriad of modifications that the music goes through in conjunction with the show, which is constantly developing and changing over time. Ultimately, the work is in better shape than when it started, but the process "can be frustrating at times," says Woody.
When asked what song they most want to share with readers, both Brian and Woody chose "Somewhere Inside". The song is performed by Ma-anne Dionisio, when Wei Wei realizes the futility of loving Wai Tung [lyrics/audio of "Somewhere Inside"]. The song exemplifies Woody's power in creating music -- dramatic, soaring pop one moment, and intimate, melodic confession the next -- and Brian's astuteness in fusing just the right words to capture the complexity of Wei Wei's realization.
As Kati Kuroda, actress to play Ma Gao, says, "The songs stick with you like an old time musical," a testimony of the power of Woody and Brian's composition. Aren't you already humming "Somewhere Inside"?