First Korean ‘Hedwig’ returns

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Aug 16, 2012 - 19:56
  • Updated : Aug 16, 2012 - 19:56

A scene from musical “Hedwig” (Yonhap News)
Actor Oh Man-seok once again stars as transgender singer seven years after the musical’s first run

It took shaving armpits and legs, wearing a heavy wig, and going on a strict diet for actor Oh Man-seok to play the role he became famous for seven years ago.

The actor recently made a comeback as “Hedwig,” the East German transgender singer, in the Korean adaptation of John Cameron Mitchell’s famous rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

“I could not work out (because I’m not allowed to have muscles for this role), could not drink, was only allowed to eat salads for this role,” Oh told reporters during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.

“And I’m still not used to shaving my legs. I always end up bleeding because I don’t know how to hold the razor properly. I’m pretty much banned from doing things that I really like, because I really like eating, working out, and drinking. But the role of ‘Hedwig’ is certainly worth the ordeal.”

It is the show’s seventh run since its opening in April 2005. It has been performed in Korea more than 1,250 times.

Many prominent actors and singers have played the role in the past runs of the show, including Jo Seung-woo, Uhm Ki-joon, Song Chang-eui, Yoon Do-hyun, and Kim Dong-wan. Oh was cast for the show’s opening run in Seoul, and his performance received sensational reviews at the time. He was the first Korean Hedwig.

No actor would say Hedwig is an easy role to play. Aside from the heavy costumes and wigs, the character has an unusual tale to tell.

In the show, the singer shares how she decided to undergo a sex reassignment operation after falling in love with a U.S. male soldier, and how the surgery was botched and left her with an “angry inch of flesh between her legs.” The singer also says it’s that “angry inch of flesh” that made her ex lovers betray and leave her.

The show delves deep into the desire to be loved, and be accepted as who we are, said Oh.

“This musical tells us that to love someone is to accept him exactly the way he is,” Oh said.

“It also tells us that everyone deserves to be loved, and every individual is meaningful and important. I think that’s the essential message of this piece.”

Sharing Oh’s role is TV and musical actor Park Gun-hyung, who recently made a small screen appearance as a medical doctor in the popular MBC drama “I Do, I Do.” It is Park’s first time playing the role, and the actor kept her “girly” voice throughout the press meeting.

“I wasn’t very good with memorizing my lines during the early stage of the production,” Park told reporters.

“But when I finally memorized all of the lines and put the script down, I felt like a part of me had been healed. And I thought this show could heal others, too, since it had healed me. And that very moment is something that I would really like to share with the audience.”

Which actor did he think had pulled off the “prettiest“ Hedwig since the opening run in 2005?

“What a lame question!“ Park said. “Of course it’s me. I’m the prettiest. Can’t you just tell after looking at me on stage?”

“Hedwig” runs until Oct. 21 at KT&G Sangsang Art Hall in southern Seoul. Tickets cost 55,000 won to 66,000 won. For more information, call 1544-1555.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)