Photos from Yg Shih (of Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Kaohsiung)
Edited by Dennis Weinberg
Based on Sakyamuni Buddha’s life as written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Siddhartha The Musical was a fascinating spectacle at the Great Enlightenment Auditorium. With the elegant costume design, powerful vocals, and graceful movements, the Fo Guang Shan Academy Art of the Philippines delivered a stunning performance.
The show opened with Ananda narrating the beginning of the story. As most stories go, a king is troubled by having no son to inherit his throne. When he is granted one, it is prophesied that his son will have to choose from becoming a king or a monk. Using all his power and doing everything he can to sway his son away from the spiritual path, the king ‘protects’ him from all of life’s suffering and gives him a life that will lead him to kingship. However, Prince Siddhartha retains characteristics of a spiritual leader. He then weds Yasodhara. As his wife, she knows that her husband is a bird that cannot be caged. Later in the story, Siddhartha’s eyes are opened to a true discovery about life. Being housed all his life, he is ignorant of old age, sickness, and death. Inspired and moved by the example of the monk, he abandons his luxurious life to become a monk and find a solution to suffering. The story progresses showing how Siddhartha becomes the Buddha. His family, with his father and his wife, come to accept the changes that occur. As “the Enlightened One,” people come to him for help. It shows how he welcomes everyone, no matter their status, gender, or age.
With bright and stunning colors and intricate designs, the costumes that the cast wore were absolutely gorgeous. Even though there wasn’t much of a set and the stage remained simple, the production didn’t feel any less grand. The vivacious pieces that the cast wore were enough to give life to the entire stage.
As the whole musical was in English, they did a great job of capturing the audience’s (mostly Taiwanese and Chinese) attention, keeping them interested for the full length of the show. The translation surrounding the stage aided them through the plot, helping them to understand the songs that were sung.
Personally, this musical impacted me in a way I didn’t expect. The show imparted Buddha’s teachings in both an informative and a moving way. Prior to this, I didn’t have much knowledge about Buddhism. I must say that the way that they conveyed the story was the perfect introduction for people like me who are interested in knowing more about Buddhism.
The historical accuracy of the play didn’t compromise the artistic aspects in any way. The combination of music and choreography was phenomenal. As the actors sang with such dynamic voices, their motions gave more life to the music that they chanted. Their gestures didn’t fail to dramatize the scenes, but instead enliven them. Most notably, the talented actors could be seen giving truly heart-felt portrayals of the characters.