[Herald Review] Shed tears, be enthralled by ‘Les Miserables’

By 줄리 잭슨 (Julie Jackson)
  • Published : Dec 3, 2015 - 17:32
  • Updated : Dec 3, 2015 - 17:32

Let others rise. To take our place. Until the Earth is free -- hear the words of one of the longest running productions in musical history, Les Miserables, which has found its way back onto the local stage. 

The Korean-language production made its premiere in 2012 and sparked a craze that led to more than 40 million viewers flocking to the theater to experience the musical that won four awards at the 19th annual Korean Musical Awards in 2013.

A scene from the Korean reproduction of the musical “Les Miserables,” playing at the Blue Square in Seoul until March 6. (Les Miserables Korea)
Under the guidance of Tony Award-winning theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh, this season’s return performance of “Les Miserables” features an all-star cast including Jung Sung-hwa, reviving his role of Jean Valjean, as well as Yang Joon-mo (also playing Valjean) and Kim Joon-hyun (playing Javert) who previously performed in the show’s Japanese Toho productions.

Musical actress Jeon Na-young has also reprised her role of Fantine. Jeon received high praise from the local musical community when she became the first Asian in the role to ever perform at London’s West End, the original home of the musical, last year.

Scrupulous about the quality of the performance, Mackintosh reportedly held 10 auditions over seven months to weed through the 3,000 artists auditioning for roles. And his meticulous approach more than paid off as this year’s cast was nothing short of brilliant.

In the midst of the French Revolution, the musical follows the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who was sentence to a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Once released, Valjean violates his parole in his quest for revenge and redemption.

Valjean, along with a pack of other oppressed peasants looking to shed their social shackles, decide to rise and revolt against the regime.

For a cast to move an audience to tears, or at least to the brink of an emotional epiphany, would be considered by many a triumph. And that they did, making it nearly impossible not to be emotionally churned throughout the show.

Since the release of the Golden Globe Award-winning “Les Miserables” feature film, hearing “I Dreamed a Dream” -- arguably one of the musical’s most popular numbers -- conjures up the close-up shot of the broken down tear-tattered face of actress Anne Hathaway.

Not an easy task for the young Cho Jung-eun to follow as Fantine, but she no doubt did the number justice. 

A scene from the Korean reproduction of the musical “Les Miserables,” playing at the Blue Square in Seoul until March 6. (Les Miserables Korea)
Another fan favorite, “A Heart Full of Love,” was tackled by the combination of Yoon So-ho as Marius, Lee Ha-kyung as Cosette and Park Ji-yeon as Eponine. Do the lyrics border on the cheesy? Perhaps. Was the performance of the trio undeniably heart melting? Definitely.

Other outstanding performances of the night included Marius’ “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” and Valjean’s “Bring Him Home,” as well as the entire cast bellowing out the inspired lyrics of “One More Day.”

The ongoing musical also stars Kim Woo-hyung, Lim Gi-hong, Park Jun-myun and Min Woo-hyuk. 

“Les Miserables” is holding daily performances, except Mondays, until March 6 at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Seoul. The musical runs three hours, with a 20-minute intermission. Ticket prices range from 60,000 won ($51.50) to 140,000 won. For more information, visit www.lesmis.co.kr.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)