The musical I wrote which I get asked the most about played nine years ago today, Our Wedding. In other words, it’s also our wedding anniversary. For the musical was our wedding, and our wedding was a musical. People seem tickled by the mere idea, an act both romantic and ridiculous; audacious, unusual, and, most of all, entertaining.
While we may have succeeded in having extraordinary nuptials, the onus on me as writer was to make sure that the text was just as extraordinary. There have been zillions of love songs over the ages, and probably a thousand or more songs having to do with getting married. That’s a crowded target on which to shoot a new arrow. Furthermore, many of these songs resonate in the audience’s collective minds. Picture people rushing to a church, fearful of tardiness, and not thinking of Get Me To the Church On Time. I can’t; can you?
When I attend a show, I tend to be bothered by whatever’s utterly predictable. So, in order to write the sort of show I would enjoy attending, I had to come up with a goodly number of numbers that had something new to say. For instance, for the principal love song Joy and I were to sing to each other, I had us refer to the past romances, the fools who failed to appreciate (or conjugally matrimonify, as W.S. Gilbert would put it) our traits and talents. So, what could have been a dull list of good qualities takes on a tinge of melancholy, referencing those “idiots” and employing the flat fifth.
One thing I’ve never seen at a wedding is any mention at all of sex. Oh, I guess there might have been a drunk-out-of-his-mind Best Man who toasted with something mildly off-color, but, let’s face it, for centuries the joy of getting married had everything to do with the joy of having sex. So, years before the trend of potty-mouthed gal pals hit the big screen in films such as Bridesmaids, I wrote an old-fashioned girl-group-rock quartet for Joy’s maids of honor. In The Wedding Night, they give the bride cosmopolitan (small c, if you please!) advice on how to please the groom (me) in bed. All of this got a lot of laughs and I was able to use a triple-entendre I can guarantee you has never been used before or since. (Hint: it involves our names.)
To set up The Wedding Night, I had the bridesmaids offer traditional advice in the form of a madrigal. This quadruple quodlibet ends abruptly when one of them interrupts the number to call it lame. She tells the pianist to kick it and the new groove begins. This was the sort of surprise the evening demanded.
In any musical, the writer must pay attention to whether the audience might be ahead of the material. You can’t tell people stuff they already know and expect to get a hand. So, at some point in the show, it becomes frighteningly apparent that we’re listening to a progression of views about this marriage from different vantage points: sister-of-the-groom, father-of-the-bride, flower girl and preacher. And we also know that there are certain lines (mostly from the preacher) that most any wedding will include. So, I combined these two problems – the parade of perspectives and the obligatory recitations, into one sung punchline: “If there’s anybody here who knows any reason why these two should not be married …” and here our officiant friend paused, looked around, and then an impish grin broke out on his face; “…you’d better have a damn good song ready.”
Now it seems I’m spoiling a lot of the surprises. (Note to self: DON’T let readers know about the part of the processional when the singers start talking like pirates.) But it’s not as if you can ever see this show. Our Wedding was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you missed it, I’m sorry you did. There is an original cast album for sale. A mere $20 to me at PayPal gets you a CD in the mail. And I promise you it’s full of surprises.
If there’s one word that has been a touchstone for me in all my writing, it’s “surprise.” I can’t stand to serve up the expected. The thing you didn’t see coming is what makes great theatre. And a funny punch-line.
But it also might seem like the whole show was a laugh-riot. Our Wedding, like any good wedding, is a romantic occasion. We could have fun with the traditional components of knot-tying, but the message that I love Joy had to shine through. Genuine expressions of the heart abound: in her solo and mine, in my Best Man’s history of our long friendship, in my father’s halting waltz
plus a surprisingly touching moment at the end of the comic duet for our mothers. I think, there, I managed to tap in to what any mom, deep down inside, would like to communicate to their child’s spouse’s mother: Don’t make my baby’s life a living hell by being an awful mother-in-law! Seems like a funny thought, at first, but real tears fell on many a cheek when it was delivered. I can vouch for my two.
I love you, Joy. I miss you, Mom.