[Herald Review] Peering through mask of ‘Phantom’

By Korea Herald

Korean production tells story of man born with face of monster

  • Published : Jul 1, 2015 - 18:44
  • Updated : Jul 1, 2015 - 20:43

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega-hit musical “Phantom of the Opera,” the protagonist ― a disfigured man living in dark cellars of a Paris opera house ― has no name. Known as the Phantom, he lurks in the shadows and manipulates, desires and finally kidnaps the object of his obsessive affection, Christine Daae.

In another musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 horror romance, currently playing in Seoul, he is Erik ― a man who has to live underground and hidden because he was born with the face of a monster. He lives up to what people think of him to be ― an evil creature ― but deep down in his heart there is a yearning to love and be loved.

“Phantom,” with music by Maury Yeston and script by Arthur Kopit, is the story of Erik, who meets his muse, falls in love and is abandoned for his hideous appearance. The musical also offers a flashback into the past, explaining how he came to be who he is. 

Park Hyo-shin (top) as the Phantom and Im Sun-hae as Christine Daae in the Korean production of “Phantom.” EMK Musical Company

The Korean rendition, directed by Robert Johanson, adds new perspectives and dimensions to the original plot, as it explores the love story between Erik’s parents ― a ballerina with a heavenly voice and the married manager of the opera house ― through a poetic ballet performance featuring the country’s top dancers, including Kim Joo-won.

Yeston’s score is beautiful, but is arguably without such memorable songs as Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night.”

Singer and musical actor Park Hyo-shin fares well in his portrayal of Phantom, although he is more convincing singing than acting. His range, powerful high notes and well-controlled lows, is surprisingly impressive, given that he is the only one of the main actors who hasn’t come from a classical background.

For Park, who proved his box-office influence when “Mozart” ― in which he starred as the legendary composer ― became the highest-grossing musical production last year, “Phantom” will certainly be another positive step in the local musical field.

Aside from Park, Ryu Jung-han and KAI portray the Phantom opposite sopranos Im Sun-hae, Kim Soon-young and musical actress Im Hae-young as Daae.

Shin Young-sook deserves praise as the hilarious Madame Carlotta, the pompous diva who takes over the opera house and casts herself in every female lead role.

A Seoul-based EMK Musical Company production, the American musical “Phantom” will continue through July 26 at Chungmu Art Hall in Seoul. 

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)