Under the Bodhi Tree, is the musical adaptation of Prince Siddhartha’s life, his search for enlightenment and his transition into the Buddha.
It has been a 10-year journey for composer Jingoo Lee and his music writing partner, Julie Song, bringing this project to the stage; developing the concept of the story from a concert performance in Korean, to a workshop performance at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. It now culminates with the Off-Off-Broadway production, which transposes the sixth century B.C. Prince, his father King Suddhodana, leader of the Sakya, a large clan in what is now the region of Nepal, and places the story and cast against a current backdrop.
Set in a city park, akin to New York City’s Central Park, where a Bodhi tree has been planted, the legend comes to life.
As he matures, Prince Siddhartha finds himself tormented by age-old issues of the human existence – inequality, fairness, death and the benevolence of a God that would condone the suffering and punishment of those in need. He is haunted by the picture of a poor woman seeking help for her child, who is set upon by his guards. “How can a mother who loves her child and shields him from harm, be considered lowly and less than a soulless animal?,” he asks.
King Suddhodana, Siddhartha’s father, on the other hand, struggles with a different set of issues – those involving a prophesy by a holy man that foretold of a possible second path his son and only heir might take, away from war, conquest and military leadership – a path of enlightenment and spiritual awakening. While the King attempts to keep his son within the palace walls, intrigue and tensions rise to a breaking point.