Marjorie Duffield, Christopher Curtis and Helen Park: ‘Over the Moon’ songwriters
The idea that Audrey Wells‘ original script for the Netflix film “Over the Moon” was not written as a musical might seem unbelievable but Marjorie Duffield says that the way it was set up fit perfectly to turn it into one. “We were gifted with Audrey Wells’ beautiful script that, strangely, is almost like the perfect libretto to a musical without the songs. Audrey would build her moments to these places where the characters would just have to sing. They just had to move into song,” Duffield, along with co-songwriters Christopher Curtis and Helen Park, tells Gold Derby in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above).
Some restructuring of the script was required to make it work better in the mold of a musical but Duffield felt that there were moments in the script that were just begging to musicalized. “Structurally, Audrey almost had these moments just perfectly paced where it’s like that’s a song and that’s a song.
“Over the Moon,” focuses on a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang). Several years after her mother succumbs to a terminal illness, her father gets engaged to another woman, much to Fei Fei’s chagrin. When her father reveals that he no longer believes in the story of the Moon goddess, Chang’e (which she first learned about from her late mother), Fei Fei builds a rocket to fly to the moon and prove that Chang’e is real. The film also stars Sandra Oh, Phillipa Soo, John Cho and Ken Jeong and is directed by Oscar winner Glen Keane (Best Animated Short, “Dear Basketball,” 2017).
Some songs were much more difficult to nail down a tone for than others. Park remembers that the Chang’e’s song, “Ultraluminary,” was a particularly difficult one to get right. “Glen and Audrey wanted it to be a concert song and that was all we were given. In the beginning Glen was like, ‘What if it’s like Queen? What if it’s like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?’” The songwriting team tried to create a song in that mold that was also able to capture Chang’e’s demanding nature as well as her ups and downs, but she found that rock music did not work for this song. Then Glen had a bit of a different idea that set in motion what the song would become. “Glen was like, ‘What if we all have to dance? What if it’s a song that demands you to dance and you can’t help it?’ He cited LMFAO as an example and we got inspirations from Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and some K-Pop influences.”
Picking a personal favorite song is a tough thing for each of them. Curtis says it’s because all the songs that are in the film are very personal to them, but there is one that’s especially personal for Curtis. “For me, ‘Rocket to the Moon’ is the one that’s personal because the whole journey of accepting grief and transforming grief.” Curtis relates the experience of the song to when his little brother died when he was a kid and remembers the priest at the memorial service saying, “You have to run into your grief. That’s the way you get through it.” “That journey of grief and transforming it, being inspired and trying to love again, I think that is really was the most personal to me,” he explains.