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Musical stars having a ‘Wicked’ Korean time

Australian cast of hit musical energized by unexpected enthusiasm


The Australian stars of hit Broadway musical “Wicked” are having a truly wicked time in Korea. From receptive audiences to indulgent coffee houses and the graciousness of the Korean people, Jemma Rix and David Harris are spoilt for choice for highlights of their stay.

Five weeks into the Korean tour, Rix, who plays the rebellious green witch Elphaba, and Harris, who plays Fiyero, her dashing love interest, have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of Korean audiences.

The pair receives standing ovations every night and thunderous applause throughout the show.

“We were warned Korean audiences are polite and lightly clap when they are ‘supposed’ to. But the vocal and energetic response has blown everyone away,” Rix told The Korea Herald.

At the end of Act One when Rix sings hit song “Defying Gravity” while flying above the ground, she is used to an emphatic round of applause in Australia. In Korea, she receives a “roar” of cheering during the climax of the song. 
The Australian stars of “Wicked,” David Harris (left) and Jemma Rix, stand under a copy of the Time Dragon, a set dressing featured in the musical, in the foyer of the Blue Square Music Hall in Itaewon-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. (Maryann Wright/The Korea Herald)
The Australian stars of “Wicked,” David Harris (left) and Jemma Rix, stand under a copy of the Time Dragon, a set dressing featured in the musical, in the foyer of the Blue Square Music Hall in Itaewon-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. (Maryann Wright/The Korea Herald)

“It feels like a wave that hits you. Even after the curtain goes down and I am descending on the flying contraption there is still clapping, which has never happened in Australia,” she said.

Harris finds it easy to feed off the positive energy of Korean audiences. Performing nine shows a week can be physically and emotionally draining but “the exchange of energy between the audience and performers is more alive and electrifying in Seoul, and I feed off that as much as the audience feed off us,” he said.

The Australian production transported to the Samsung Blue Square Theater in Itaewon-dong for a limited season in Seoul has made a few accommodations for the Korean audience. Certain literal translations and jokes that don’t read the same in Korean have been altered, such as replacing artichoke with broccoli in the expression, “the artichoke has been steamed,” since artichokes aren’t prevalent in Asia.

On the funnier side, Rix and Harris have found that Koreans love sight gags. Some gags get such a large response that they wait minutes for the audience to stop laughing so the next line can be delivered. The scene where part-human-part-goat Dr. Dillamond eats paper has the audience in hysterics, as does the wand-versus-broom catfight between dueling witches Elphaba and Glinda in Act Two.

During the pairs’ time off they have taken to exploring the capital. Harris is impressed by the “hip and funky” fashion as well as the top-class coffee houses. He feels at home in the strong coffee culture, finding it comparable to Melbourne.

“It isn’t hard to find a good coffee shop; brilliant coffee is everywhere and they treat it like a science,” he said, listing 5 Extracts in Hongdae as one of his favorite spots.

Rix also enjoys the local cuisine, especially Korean BBQ, but has learned to save eating her favorite dish for her day off. Although the strong garlic flavor may be tasty, Korean BBQ is not as conducive to kissing scenes and partner work during the show, Rix said with a chuckle and smirk in Harris’ direction.

Wicked is playing at the Samsung Blue Square Electronic Hall through October 7. Tickets range from 50,000 won to 160,000 won. www.wickedthemusical.co.kr

By Maryann Wright, Intern reporter 
(maryann.wright5@gmail.com)
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