May the Farce Be With You: Musical Parody and Your Star Wars MusicalWicket: A Parody Musical /0 Comments/by Haddon Kime
The day you’re asked to write a Star Wars musical is special for everyone. For me, the memory is as vivid as when I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. Excitement swells as I reach up to the high shelf, bringing down an ancient tome, by now dusted by decades of detritus. A deep breath. The dust scatters. A title is revealed. “So You’re Going To Write A Parody Musical” by… by… some old backlit and bearded guy with a quill probably. Who knows…
Truth is, there is no such book. Truth is, the rules for something like this are only revealed by glancing in the rear view mirror. Truth is, Wicket: A Parody Musical contains only twelve measures that are what I call a parallel parody of another composer’s music. I use the phrase parallel parody here as a tip of the lightsaber to musical counterpoint. You know counterpoint, where two or more musical ideas are performed simultaneously that both depend on one another harmonically while staying independent of one another melodically? J.S. Bach, the ultimate badass of counterpoint did a good bit of it back in the 18th century. Now, this next part might start to get cerebral, so let’s not lose our heads about it…
When writing a contrapuntal musical phrase, two of the ways a composer can move the melodies in relationship to one another are either in parallel or contrary motion. To wit, I define parallel musical parody as happening when alternate lyrics are written to an existing melody. Most musical parody is parallel. In parallel musical parody only the lyrics can be considered original. Case in point:
Wicket: A Parody Musical is contrary musical parody. The music and lyrics are both original, but in classic parody style, they deliberately exaggerate and imitate the musical styles of Star Wars and Wicked for comedic effect. A friend who caught a performance of the Dad’s Garage workshop run summed it up well by saying that the musical parody in Wicket is less Weird Al (who writes mostly parallel musical parody, but also dabbles in contrary musical parody as well) and more South Park (who, IMHO are some of the best contrary musical parody writers working today.)
Don’t F@*k with John Williams or Stephen Schwartz
Obviously, both Star Wars and Wicked are leaving long and storied musical legacies. Like many of you, John Williams and I go way back, though he has yet to return any of my calls. I remember dancing around to the Star Wars 8-Track as a 7-year-old in Nova Scotia, the orchestra drilling itself deeper and deeper into my somatic imagination. When I started crushing on stage musicals in high school, it was both Les Mis and this new show about the Wicked Witch of the West by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman that taught me how powerful it can be when music and storytelling join forces.
Early on, Travis and I decided that it would be better, for the most part, to leave the genius of John Williams and Stephen Schwartz alone. Also, parallel musical parody didn’t give us the freedom we needed to express what we wanted to. So we opted for contrary musical parody, letting the satire and storyline determine the style of each song.
So, when the day comes that you start writing yourself a parody Star Wars musical, it’s helpful to ask yourself how parallel or contrary you’d like your musical to be. If your goal is to simply be funny and clever then parallel musical parody might be a great choice. If, on the other paw, you’re looking to also give yourself the freedom to extract more than just funny and clever from your parody, then consider utilizing contrary musical parody. It’ll be a good time for sure.
What are your favorite examples of either parallel or contrary musical parody? What are your favorite examples of Star Wars musical parody in particular? Leave your answer in the comments below and do us a solid by sharing this post with other friends who might be writing their own parody Star Wars musical today.