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[MUSICAL REVIEW] `Great Janggeum`offers a feast with unfilled dishes

A musical version of Korea`s big hit soap opera "Daejanggeum" was revived on the stage at the Opera House of the Seoul Arts Center last Saturday.
Although the TV drama "Daejanggeum," a show about a palace cook`s adventures that aired from Sept. 2003 to March 2004, is over, many Koreans still remember and sing the opening theme song, "O Nara Song." But the musical doesn`t leave a memorable song for audiences to hum after the show is over.
The TV show, featuring sumptuous traditional Korean royal cuisine, was visually appealing and mouth-wateringly irresistible to fans. Combining Western orchestral music with traditional Korean group dances, it was transformed into a musical titled "The Great Janggeum." For example, when girls in the royal kitchen made dumplings to win the cooking competition, "plate dances" expressed the enthusiasm of the girls and the variety of dumplings.
<**1>An eye-catching 400 different traditional Korean costumes enhanced the beauty and scale of the stage, coupled with beautifully detailed stage settings. It already succeeded in enhancing the audience`s appetite with its visuals before the feast started.
But it was "great boast and small roast." As the musical condensed 54 episodes of the original TV drama into a two-and-a-half hour-long musical, it misses some of the nuts and bolts that link the well-selected story chunks from the original.
The first part of the musical, depicting Janggeum`s adventure in the palace as a royal cook, was well detailed, but the second part, which detailed her life transition into a maidservant and a royal physician, seemed to have missing pieces, as it was in a hurry to wrap up the story.
Whereas Kim So-hyeon (Janggeum) depicted the character well in various circumstances, expressing feminine, enthusiastic, brave, sad and mature sides of the character topped with her own unique voice, Min Jeong-ho played by Won Ki-joon was expressed rather weakly, compared to the same character played by Ji Jin-hee in the TV drama, which drew many female fans. His lyrics were not clearly delivered to the audiences.
Supporting characters such as two royal cook masters Han and Choi, and Jangguem`s stepfather and mother, balanced the serious atmosphere in the royal palace and the world outside the palace.
In the end, the feast was not perfect, but there is a chance dishes will get better as the feast repeats. If the musical fills those empty dishes as the show repeats, it will make a fabulous feast, which domestic fans as well as foreigners can enjoy.
"The Great Janggeum" will be performed until June 17. Tickets are from 40,000 won ($43) to 150,000 won. For more information, call (02) 738-8289.
By Lee Woo-young
catch table
Korea Herald daum