‘Les Miserables’ powerful and moving on Seoul run

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Apr 15, 2013 - 19:51
  • Updated : Apr 15, 2013 - 19:51
Following the towering success of Tom Hooper’s film adaptation in the box office, the musical “Les Miserables” again managed to capture the hearts of Seoulites on stage this weekend.

The musical’s culminating number “One Day More” ― delivered in Korean by an all-Korean cast ― was greeted with tumultuous applause and standing ovation at Blue Square’s Samsung Electronics Hall Sunday, with members of the 1,700 audience members repeatedly cheering as the actors took their bows.

It took 27 years to stage the all-Korean production of Cameron Mackintosh’s legendary musical in Korea, since the British production opened at London’s Barbican Centre in 1985. 
A scene from “Les Miserables,” currently on its Seoul run at Blue Square. (Les Miserables Korea, Inc.)

The Korean run’s national tour kicked off in November in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, and had separate runs in Daegu (December to January) and Busan (February to March) before finally arriving in Seoul on April 6. The current cast has performed the piece more than 100 times since its premiere in Yongin last year.

Based on 19th-century French writer Victor Hugo’s timeless novel of the same title, the musical tells the story of Jean Valjean ― a hapless French peasant who serves 19 years in prison for stealing a piece of bread for his starving family.

After being released, he manages to assume a new identity and becomes mayor of a town. While trying to avoid being recaptured by Javert, a police inspector, he agrees to take care of Cosette, the illegitimate daughter of Fantine ― a sick, abused prostitute who had to sell her hair and teeth to make a living.

What stood out was the Korean translation of the lyrics, which clearly paid attention to the nuances and cultural implications of the two languages. Though it did not sound natural all the time, it precisely delivered the essence of the narrative.

The cast of actors all carried the tunes well, including Kim Seong-min who played Jean Valjean for Sunday’s show. Actress Cho Jeong-eun was impressive as the tragic and desperate Fantine, who tries to support her daughter in spite of the devastating circumstances.

Actress Park Ji-yeon deserves praise for her performance as Eponine, a ragged teenager who falls for a young revolutionary Marius who is in love with Cosette. Her delivery of the musical’s famous number “On My Own” ― where Eponine reveals her unrequited love for Marius ― as well as the scene where she dies in his arms from a gunshot wound, was touching and heartfelt.

One of the highlights of the show was undoubtedly its ensemble numbers, specifically “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “One Day More.”

The two songs are arguably what make this musical worth watching even after seeing Hooper’s movie, as listening to the songs live is certainly different ― much more immersive and organic, and powerful ― from what one may have enjoyed in the cinematic version.

“Les Miserables” is currently on an open run at Blue Square’s Samsung Electronics Hall in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Tickets range from 90,000 won to 130,000 won. For more information, call 1544-1555 or visit www.lesmis.co.kr.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)