Royalty seduced by death

By Korea Herald

‘Elisabeth’ just as moving on second run

  • Published : Aug 4, 2013 - 21:02
  • Updated : Aug 4, 2013 - 21:32

A scene from “Elisabeth” (EMK Musical)
The first Korean run of German musical “Elisabeth” last year was enormously successful, sweeping many awards including the Best Musical, at last year’s Musical Awards.

The show is back in Seoul in a bigger venue this year ― Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater ― starring some of last year’s cast and newly added actors and actresses.

Musical actress Ok Ju-hyun, who won the Best Actress last year for her performance in the piece, once again played the beautiful yet unhappy Austrian empress ― “the 19th-century Princess Diana” ― who is seized by the thought of death while living a seemingly glamorous life.

While Ok’s delivery of the free-spirited and later tormented empress is equally, if not more, impressive as the one in the first run, this year’s production is also delightfully complemented by the presence of singer Park Hyo-shin as the elusive and charismatic Tod, the spirit of death.

Park, who is known for his signature husky and deep, mellow voice, showed off his magnetic stage presence throughout Thursday’s show. He falls in love with young Elisabeth at first sight, before she marries Franz Joseph I, and constantly asks her to follow his path throughout her life.

Park’s performance of Tod was alluring and original, a performance that was complemented by his distinctive voice ― compared to the ones of actors Ryu Jeong-han and Song Chang-ui, who played the same role last year. This is Park’s second time starring in a musical, and while his husky voice may not always work with the musical genre, it certainly worked with the role of Tod: dark, sexy, and mysterious.

JYJ member Junsu, who is undoubtedly the most popular for the role, is also playing Tod again for the current run.

The musical, which premiered in Vienna in 1992, is considered one of the most successful German-language musicals in recent history. It has been translated into seven foreign languages, and attracted more than 9 million viewers worldwide. It celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898) is recorded as having been admired by the public for her beauty and supreme fashion sense, and was famous for her rigorous daily beauty routines.

The empress was also known for keeping her slender figure by exercising and fasting. Even at age 61, her waist measured only 18 to 19 inches.

She is said to have suffered through the relationship with her overbearing, strict mother-in-law Archduchess Sophie. She lost her son to suicide, and herself was murdered by an anarchist in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1898.

One of the best numbers of the musical was “I Belong to Me,” which is sung by Elisabeth after she is abused by her mother-in-law Archduchess Sophie during Act 1. Just like in last year’s run, Ok was particularly impressive with this number, presenting a convincing portrait of a young woman tormented by her marriage and her royal duties as an empress.

The actress also showed off great chemistry with singer Park in Act 2, especially with their duet number “When I Want to Dance.” In the scene, viewers can tell the empress is obviously and hopelessly attracted to Tod ― while still very much unhappy with her duties and tragic misfortunes ― but desperately tries to reject him and hold onto her life as it falls into pieces.

The last scene of the show was followed by a standing ovation, cheers and prolonged applause. When Park took bows and once again sang Tod’s signature number “The Last Dance,” many would have been reminded of some sleek, stylish K-pop idol group performance ― it was almost like being in a pop concert with an excited crowd.

“Elisabeth” runs at Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater in Seoul from July 26 to Sept. 7. Tickets range from 30,000 won to 140,000 won. For more information, call (02) 6391-6333.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)