The New Musical-Within-a-Play: SOFT POWER | The Public Theater

SOFT POWER could be considered a play
that becomes musical. Tt could also be considered a musical within a play. SOFT POWER starts like this and then it ends like this. It’s very ambitious,
stylistically adventurous; it’s about the way that we communicate our values and
our culture. The first section is a comedy that takes place in 2016. One of
the characters gets stabbed in the neck, goes into a fever dream and it jumps
into the future and the incident that we saw has since been mythologized in this
sort of gorgeous Rodgers and Hammerstein like east-west musical in
China which then celebrates from China’s point of view how China stepped in to
lead the world when America collapsed after the 2016 election. In some sense, the musical part is a
reverse King and I about a yellow hero who comes to America and helps a
good-hearted American politician in her moment of crisis. Rodgers and Hammerstein
wrote about very difficult things and they did that with great craft. They
redefined musicals and so when we were writing SOFT POWER, what we were trying
to make is a well-constructed beautiful musical of our own to have that pursuit.
David and Jeanine created this reality where American musical theater and
American musical theater tropes are being appropriated in this Chinese
musical, so there’s a lot of iconic movement that is recognizable for
musical theater that’s just bent a little bit into this strange lens of
SOFT POWER. I hope that people leave the show feeling that they’ve heard
beautiful music, that they’ve been able to laugh about the time that we live in
but at the same time that they understand and feel what this era means
in terms of the whole history of this country in a whole new way.
There’s a line in the show “when you love someone you fight for them.” I would like
the show to make people think about our love for the country and our
aspirational hope that in this moment of crisis we will fight for what we love.

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