Industry insiders say that due to the economic slump, the local musical industry this year has been facing an almost worst-ever situation.
This is evidently reflected in the dramatic drop in the number of musical goers: Apart from long-anticipated foreign musicals like "The 42nd Street" and "Dreamgirls," it is hard to name successful shows in the musical market from the first half of the year. Small- and mid-sized shows suffered particularly from small audience size.
Fall`s musical line-up, however, features some notable productions. The list includes four large-scale shows -- two premiering homemade musicals based on historic events, "Namhansanseong" and "Hero," plus vernacular versions of "Legally Blonde" and "The Phantom of the Opera."
The shows are ambitiously aiming to buck the slump with their high-quality and good cast and reflect the realization by musical production companies that only quality shows are able to survive in harsh circumstances.
"Namhansanseong" hits stage Oct. 14-31 at Seongnam Arts Center in Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province. The show is based on the incident of Byeongjahoran, the Chinese invasion of Joseon Dynasty in 1636, but generally relies more on the hit novel of the same name by Kim Hoon.
The show focuses on expressing the essence of the novel, that is, Koreans` sprit of survival during harsh situations like Byeongjahoran, according to Seongnam Cultural Foundation which produced the show.
However, the producers said that despite the subject matter, the musical will still feel contemporary, tailored to tastes of modern viewers with pop-style singing and other tools.
The foundation has expressed its intention to make the show not just a one-time event but a commercially successful repertoire that the center can stage regularly.
Following its nation-wide tour, "Namhansanseong" will move to China, Australia and France starting in 2010.
Yesung of popular boy band Super Junior makes his musical debut in "Namhansanseong." He will play the leading role Oh Dal-jae.
Tickets run from 33,000 won to 100,000 won. For further information, call (031) 783-8000.
"Hero" will be introduced from Oct. 26-Nov. 15 at LG Arts Center in southern Seoul, marking the 100th anniversary of independence activist An Jung-geun`s assassination of the first Japanese Prime Minister of Korea, Hirobumi Ito, in 1909.
The story of An`s patriotic deeds has been told through other artistic genres before, yet it is the first musical to be based on the figure.
To ensure the completeness of the show, Acom International, the company that produced it, spent three years in production. Acom is well-known for creating internationally-known musical "Last Empress."
"We put much emphasis on not only expressing An`s ideology and patriotism but also portraying him as a humanistic character," a spokeswoman for Acom said.
Since An is a well-known figure in China, Russia and Southeast Asia, the company will target advancing to these nations.
The producers said more than 5 billion won was invested in the show, especially on creating diverse scenes that depict early-20th century Korea, China, Russia and Japan. The recreation of An`s assassination of Ito using 3-D video will be one of the key scenes, they said.
Musical actors Ryu Jung-han and Jung Sung-hwa double in the role of An.
Tickets run from 40,000 won to 90,000 won. For details, call (02) 2250-5920.
The Broadway musical based on the same-titled Hollywood movie premieres Nov. 14 at COEX Artium in Samseong-dong, Seoul. Like the movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical aims at luring young female viewers to the show.
It is the first time that the relatively new musical to be introduced in a non-English speaking country.
The Korean production features an impressive cast. 2006 Miss Korea Lee Honey, Jessica of girl group Girls` Generation and actress Kim Ji-woo triple in the role of Elle Woods who enters Harvard Law School in defiance of the "dumb blonde" stereotype.
The show runs through March 4, 2010. Tickets run from 40,000 won-90,000 won. For more information, call 02) 738-8289.
"The Phantom of the Opera"
"The Phantom of the Opera" will play through Aug. 8, 2010 at Charlotte Theater in Jamsil-dong, southern Seoul. The show was first staged here in 2001, and is often credited by musical experts for triggering the so-called musical boom in Korea in the early 2000s.
But other than when a British team performed it in 2005, featuring popular U.S. musical actor Brad Little as the Phantom, it is the first time for the popular show to be staged in eight years.
This year`s show will be more spectacular than previous years, with a reinforced set and stage settings, according to Seol & Company, which produced the show.
Musical actress Kim So-hyun from the show`s premiere run stars as Christine, while actors Yang Jun-mo and Yun Young-suk share the role of Phantom.
Tickets run from 40,000 won to 140,000 won. For details, call (02) 501-7888.
By Koh Young-aah