The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Cho Jung-eun portrays Fantine for last time

By Park Ga-young

Published : Feb. 8, 2024 - 11:05

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Musical actor Cho Jung-eun poses for photos during an interview at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Jan. 30. (Yonhap) Musical actor Cho Jung-eun poses for photos during an interview at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Jan. 30. (Yonhap)

Cho Jung-eun, one of South Korea’s leading musical theater actors, said that her performance this year as Fantine in “Les Miserables” is likely to be the last time she plays the role.

The 44-year-old actor has taken on the role three times since the show's Korean premier in 2013. After her second appearance in 2015, Cho is currently performing her third and final act as Fantine.

“'Les Miserables' is not frequently performed, so I think this season, which is returning to the stage after eight years, might be my last time playing Fantine. I'm happy to take on this role at an age where I can portray Fantine, before I get any older," Cho told reporters during an interview on Jan. 29.

Reflecting on her final performance in the role, in which she has come to fine new enjoyment and pleasure, Cho said, "Every performance is too precious to let pass by."

"For the premier, during the nearly year-long run as a single cast, it was truly overwhelming. It felt like a rush. In the revival, which was my second time in the role, (which had) a double cast, I felt a bit more relaxed. Now, during the third run, I am enjoying (the role) and performing (it) with genuine pleasure."

Cho Jung-eun as Fantine in Cho Jung-eun as Fantine in "Les Miserables" (Les Miserables Korea)

Fantine, a character in Victor Hugo's extensive five-volume novel "Les Miserables," also lends her name to the title of the first volume, dedicated to her struggles and challenges, which establish the thematic tone and key elements that unfold throughout the entire story.

In the musical version of the story, however, Fantine appears for a brief but impactful 20 minutes out of the 160-minute running time. Cho appears as part of the show's ensemble when she doesn't appear as Fantine.

Cho will mark the 25th anniversary of her debut in the musical ensemble of the Seoul Arts Company in 2025. In 2002, she received the Rookie of the Year award for playing the lead in "Romeo and Juliet," which was the beginning of a long list of awards she would go on to receive.

However, more than a decade ago, Cho said she experienced doubts about whether to continue acting. She went on to take a break from acting, only to realize that "No matter how small the role," she still wanted to act.

"Then, during the premiere of the musical 'Dracula' in 2014, when I played the role of Mina, I acknowledged my uniqueness as an actor," she recalled.

"Thanks to that (role), I now accept applause from the audience during curtain calls with gratitude," Cho added.

"'I want to be able to uplift (the audience's) feelings and mood, and I want to continue to (give) a natural appearance on stage,” Cho said when asked about her goal as an actor going forward.

“'Les Miserables,” featuring Min Woo-hyuck and Choi Jae-rim as Jean Valjean, and Lina as another Fantine, runs until March 10 at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. The musical will return for performances in Daegu from March 21 to April 7.