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‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ takes to stage

‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ takes to stage

Expats to stage theater version of Burton classic

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Published : 2013-12-10 20:05
Updated : 2013-12-10 20:05

Nikolas Kite Thompson will perform as Jack Skellington in the upcoming stage version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” (Michael Song)
Expats looking for a bit of Christmas fun could consider a visit to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” location of Yuletown from this weekend, as a stage version of the film is set to take the stage.

The film has been adapted for the stage by Susan Morgan, who directed Camarata Music Company’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” earlier this year and will also direct this musical.

After her friend Nikolas Kite Thompson ― who will play Jack Skellington ― wheeled out his Danny Elfman impression during a discussion with her about the films they would like to produce onstage, Morgan was inspired to adapt the Tim Burton classic. She set about honing the script during a music theater camp she was teaching at in China five months ago.

She added about 20 minutes of character development and extra songs, including one by Sally, a duet between Oogie Boogie and Dr. Finklestein, and a big show-stopper based on “What’s This?” ― a song from earlier in the show.

“We worked Dr. Finklestein’s character a little more and we developed Oogie Boogie’s character and Sally’s character, because in the movie, they all have one song, they all are very two-dimensional,” she said.

“So the audience has a reason to like Dr. Finklestein, even though he’s a bad guy, to like Oogie Boogie even though he’s a bad guy.”

Morgan points out that she is not the first to produce a stage version of the film, and she has said that video clips online gave her some hints on what to avoid, particularly being too literal with the translation.

“They are very hard to watch, because when you do theater you have to be relatable and you have to look human. So we did a lot to make Jack look like a human, like a normal guy versus just a skeleton,” she said, pointing out that scene changes also had to be reduced.

“The film cuts back and forth really fast, so it’s Halloween Town for two seconds and Dr. Finklestein’s lab for two seconds, and back to Halloween Town.

“And online there are versions that are literally translated that way, where the light goes down for two minutes and up for 30 seconds and the lights go down, and you wait for two minutes while the stage is being changed.”

To accommodate this, Morgan said she grouped parts of the film together to minimize scene changes, and reduced the number of props and backgrounds to make the use of scenery more feasible.

In the “Wizard of Oz” she used multimedia for this, but for this production she has ditched screens in favor of artistic license, such as using black drapes and mechanical movements to depict the scene where Jack takes off in a sleigh.

As a musical based on a movie with a cult following in the West, the show has the obvious target audience of expats, but Morgan said there was good reason to expect the show to appeal to locals and across a broad age range.

“I saw the Tim Burton exhibit this year, and it was packed. Maybe there were a lot of children of the ’80s but there were a lot of Korean college students,” she said. “I’ve gotten a big response from a lot of Koreans who are in their 20s so I’m hoping there’s going to be a crossover.”

She even had Seoul National University students translate the script so the show could have Korean subtitles.

There will be five shows: Two will be at the Sangmyung Arts Center in Jongno on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The other three will be at Ferrum Hall in Jung-gu on Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 2 p.m.

Advance tickets are 20,000 won for adults and 15,000 won for children. Adult tickets cost 25,000 won at the door. See for more details.

By Paul Kerry (

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