Will Aronson, left, and Hue Park wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, for the new show "Bungee Jump" based on the 2001 movie "Bungee Jumping of their Own". / Courtesy of Lee Soo-jin
"Bungee Jumping of their Own", a popular 2001 film about a love transcending time, space and gender, is being staged as a musical at Blue Square's Samsung Card Hall in Hannam-dong, Seoul.
Composer Will Aronson, who has worked previously with Musical Heaven, the musical's production company, and lyricist Hue Park told The Korea Times about their work, collaboration and friendship.
Aronson studied classical music at Harvard University and the Universitat der Kunste in Berlin and holds a master's degree from New York University (NYU) Tisch School's musical theater program.
"When I first saw the movie, I thought it has a great story, but I didn't know I would write songs for it", Aronson said.
When the company asked Aronson to write the music for the musical "Bungee Jump", he recommended Park for the lyrics. Park, who studied creative writing in Korea, pursued visual art at NYU. He was a K-pop lyricist in Korea and kept it up as a hobby in the States.
"Will and I have a lot in common, especially a taste for culture - we like John Brion and Bernard Herrmann's music and Miranda July's books and movies. We both are artists and inspired each other", Park said.
Aronson said the movie has a wide range of feelings and it left a big impression on him. "I loved how the movie has so many different feelings and changed as it went on. It started as a sweet romantic comedy, then became very mysterious and got very dark. But ultimately, it was sad, but uplifting", Aronson said.
The 2001 film featured actor Lee Byung-hun as In-woo and the late Lee Eun-joo as Tae-hee.
The storyline for the movie and the musical is the same. University student In-woo fell in love with Tae-hee when she asked to borrow his umbrella. The two start dating but Tae-hee dies suddenly in a car accident. Seventeen years later, In-woo, who became a high school Korean teacher, has an extraordinary feeling creeping over him toward one of his students Hyeon-bin. In-woo realizes that Hyeon-bin is the reincarnation of Tae-hee, but he is condemned for being a homosexual by his family, friends and students.
Figuring out how to keep the sentiment and melancholy atmosphere from the original movie was the key to writing the music for the stage version of "Bungee Jump".
In-woo and Tae-hee waltzing to Dmitri Shostakovich's Waltz No. 2 from Jazz Suite on a beach is one of the most picturesque scenes in the movie and many wondered how it would be staged. Instead of using Shostakovich's waltz, Aronson brought his own interpretation and wrote a new waltz for the musical, which opens the show and is reprised throughout including the scene in which the two lovebirds are dancing together.
"The waltz was the first entrance point to make our ways into the love story that is not just simple and beautiful, but complicated and often sad", the composer said. "I know it would be controversial to write our own waltz in the musical, but I love how the waltz functions in the piece - it is a piece that involves memory. Musically, it is very exciting to take a theme and play it with variations or bring it back".
The music gets meaning when it has lyrics - for the waltz in "Bungee Jump", is this love going to end or not? "The lyrics give music meaning and when the music comes back, audiences can relate to the feelings", Aronson added.
Since the coherence between the music and the lyrics is imperative, some composers prefer to write music and lyrics single-handedly. But Aronson favors working with lyricists.
"Everybody has totally personal taste and I always find new ideas and surprises in the process of two people discussing and debating. I love not knowing how the show is going to develop", Aronson said. "In this case, I had to collaborate because I don't speak Korean".
Park added that Aronson has an enormous energy in the collaborating process. "He uses the dynamics between us as power to push through. It was lucky for me to work with him", he said.
For "Bungee Jump", the two talked a lot before actually composing the music and lyrics. Sometimes words came first, while music came first at other times during the process.
"Usually, I have some lyrics to start with and then write melodies and when I had to write music first, it was exciting but kind of scary", Aronson said.
Park said writing lyrics for a musical is like telling a story through music. "I tried to fulfill literary and musical achievements as well as emotions in the lyrics. It should be simple but meaningful", Park said. "In Korean lyrics, rhyming is less important than in English, but I tried to balance the strength of both languages by paying attention to make it sound beautiful".
The musical is based on a Korean movie, produced by a Korean company, helmed by a Scottish director Adrian Osmond, who directed "Sweeney Todd" here in 2007, and scored by an American. In this global production, Park was like a bridge between them as he had a good understanding of both Korean and American culture.
"The show was for Korean audiences and we thought this project was more like an artists' interpretation of the movie in a synergetic way", Park said.
"We were in different places and Skyped for almost a year before actually seeing each other in Korea about two months ago. Collaborating with such mix of visions was interesting", Aronson added.
The musical is like a watercolor and it might not touch the viewers immediately, but its music, lyrics, mise-en-scene and the heart-rending love story will seep into audiences' minds.
"There are many musical spectacles filled with glamorous sets and costumes, but 'Bungee Jump' is a musical of sensibility. I hope calm, stable 'Bungee Jump' will break the fixed idea on musicals and give people something to think about", Park said.
After the interview, Aronson left for Plao Alto, Calif., to stage another show "The Trouble with Doug" at TheatreWorks' New Works Festival and Park returned to New York to continue his experiments as a foreign artist in New York.
But the music and lyrics of the two resonating with the undying love of In-woo and Tae-hee are available through "Bungee Jump", which runs till Sept 2.
The musical stars Kang Pil-suk and Kim Woo-hyung as In-woo; Jeun Mi-do and Choi Yu-ha as Tae-hee; and Yun So-ho and Lee Jae-kyun as Hyeon-bin. For more information, visit www.musicalbungeejump.co.kr or call (02) 744-4337.
By Kwon Mee-yoo
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