Spotting star singers in musicals is nothing new in Korea, but their appearances have mostly been in blockbuster foreign-made productions.
But two top-rated singers - Lim Chang-jung and Alex - are appearing in two relatively small homemade musicals - "Bbalae (laundry)" and "On Air 3."
For Lim, this is his first musical in 16 years.
"After watching the show three times, I felt so thankful that I can live my life mingling and interacting with people," Lim said at a press conference in Seoul last week.
Lim is performing in "Bbalae" for nothing - unusual for an established singer like himself. By participating in the show, Lim is keeping the promise he made with the show`s production director Kim Hee-won. When they were both unknown small theater company members, they promised each other that they would collaborate in the future as actor and producer.
The timing couldn`t be better. Kim Hee-won faced major trouble finding funding for the show last year after his main investor went bankrupt.
But thanks to Lim`s proposal that he would star in the musical for free, Kim and the production company were able to save the show.
"I think we overcame the difficulty together, just like the show`s story which encourages people to live their life with hope," Lim said. Other actors voluntarily reduced their fees as well, he added.
"Bbalae" is a love story between a bookstore employee Na-young and her neighbor Solongo, a foreign laborer. Lim doubles in the role of Solongo with theater actor Hong Gwang-ho.
Since making his debut as a musical actor in 1990, Lim starred in such shows as "Evita" and "Dongsungdong Love Song." But he catapulted to stardom later through film-acting and singing career. His major silver screen appearances include "Beat" (1997) and "All for Love" (2005).
"Bbalae" starts showing April 28 and runs through June 14 at Doosan Arts Center in Yeonji-dong, Seoul. Tickets are 20,000 won and 40,000 won. For details, call (02) 744-1355.
Singer Alex, a member of Clazziquai Project, is also playing the character of the same name in the homemade musical. He recently made his musical debut through "On Air 3," which is showing at Chungmu Arts Center in Heungin-dong, Seoul.
The ballad singer told a press meeting last week that he was working hard on his dancing and acting for the show.
"I think many viewers will be able to sympathize with the musical since it describes a realistic love story that many would have experienced before," he said.
The show, which centers around a relationship that develops between radio DJ Alex and producer Sun-jung, features familiar K-pop hits like "Manyakae (if)" and "Aein Isseoyo (I have a lover)."
"On Air," since premiering in 2006, has become a steady-selling show in Daehangno, Seoul`s theater mecca. With Alex on board, the show this season moved to a different venue. Singer-actress Jo Min-a plays Sun-jung while musical actor Song Yong-jin shares the male lead role with singer Alex.
The show will run through June 27. For more information, call (02) 517- 8642.
By Koh Young-aah