Influences of a Fairy Tale Musical

1. What appealed to you and Anderson's story and how did it inspire you as a jumping off point for this musical?

The story of The Nightingale has a special place in my heart. When I was in the 3rd grade, I performed in a children's play adaptation of the fairy tale, and the story stuck with me ever since. Andersen's Nightingale is a magical character who captured my imagination and also taught an easy-to-grasp, yet deeply poignant lesson of looking beyond the surface for true beauty and worth. Music is an art form well-suited to conveying this combination of fantasy and emotional introspection, which is why I felt that this story would make an excellent musical. I also long to expand the roles available to Asian American actors in musical theatre. Andersen's setting of a mythical China provides a choice opportunity to do just that.

Nightingale character drawings by Min Kahng when he was a child.

Nightingale character drawings by Min Kahng when he was a child.

2. What other influences did you have when working on this?

I lovingly refer to this piece as being written in the style of Disney. I grew up right when the "Disney Renaissance" struck with hit films like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. So naturally, after I performed in that 3rd grade play, I dreamed of adapting The Nightingale into an animated film (I still have the character sketches for it!). Alas, animation was not my calling - but as I began to think of turning it into a musical, the Disney storytelling quality stuck with me. I also view this piece as a love letter to American musical theatre. As a young songwriter, I was heavily influenced by the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Alan Menken. Throughout the score, you can hear references or homages to these composers.

3. If you had to sum it up, what's the message of this musical?  and why is it a good one now?

The primary message of this show is "true worth lies beyond the surface." Though I think you can take that one step deeper and say "true growth can only happen when you learn to look past the surface of things." All of the primary characters in this musical start the show with a view of the world that emphasizes the outer appearance. In order to grow and become better people, they all need to look within themselves and come to terms with what they find there. I believe this message will always be relevant, since there is always some growing that we as humans can do. You might discover you were wrong about someone else, or that you were blind to a flaw in yourself, or even that you are stronger than you thought yourself to be. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone took the time to pause and look within, rather than going by appearances alone.


4.  What made you want to revisit and revise for Town Hall?

While the Altarena Playhouse production in 2013 was an enormous triumph for me and my career, I knew there were elements of The Song of the Nightingale that I wasn't happy with. I knew there were ways to make the story more succinct and focused. This second production has provided me a rare opportunity to revise my work and see it on its feet in its new form. I'm so grateful to Town Hall Theatre for this chance to let The Song of the Nightingale take wing again!

Images from The Altarena Playhouse production of The Song of The Nightingale. 

Images from The Altarena Playhouse production of The Song of The Nightingale. 

The Song of The Nightingale: A Fairy Tale Musical plays at Town Hall Theatre September 28 through October 21, 2017. Tickets are now on sale at