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[Herald Interview] ‘Uncultured kids become uncultured adults’

Singer Yoo’s musical invited to open the Shanghai International Children’s Theater Festival

Singer Yoo Yeol did not really know that he would become a CEO of a musical company devoted to children until several years ago.

However, since he established Yoo Yeol Company in 2006 to produce the children’s musical “The Bremen’s band,” the 50-year-old has drawn nearer and nearer to the thought that he could devote his whole life to making good musicals for children.

“It just happened naturally. The more I worked for it, the more I felt right. Singing and making musicals for family and children are the two things I could do with passion until the end of my life,” Yoo said in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

“Children’s musicals are not profitable at all, but uncultured kids become uncultured grown-ups. Local governments and companies should support children’s culture first, before they consider investing in adult culture such as building a big theater.”

Yoo went on to say that it was not really fair for theaters to charge the same venue rental fees to performances for adults and those for children, as ticket prices for children are cheaper.

Despite such financial difficulties, Yoo kept staging the musical “The Bremen’s Band.”

Adapted from the fairytale “The Town Musicians of Bremen” by the Brothers Grimm, the musical has been continually staged for the past five years across the nation, since its premier at the Chongdong Theater in April 2006. More than 350,000 people have seen the musical.

The story is about a dog, a donkey, a cat and a cockerel forming a band and pursuing their dreams through an adventure.

In 2009, the musical was invited by Bremen and Offenbach cities in Germany and Offenbach Mayor Horst Schneider said “it was a good opportunity to see ‘The Bremen’s band’ recreated for the Korean version,” Yoo said.

The musical won the 4th Daegu Musical Award last year and has been invited by the upcoming Shanghai International Children’s Theater Festival as an opening show on Aug. 5. It is the first time a Korean children’s musical has been invited by the Shanghai festival, Yoo said.
Singer and Yoo Yeol Company CEO Yoo Yeol speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Singer and Yoo Yeol Company CEO Yoo Yeol speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)


“It is very meaningful that our work is opening the festival, which runs for 20 days. Depending on the audience response, we will draw up a China tour plan,” Yoo said.

In Korea this year, the musical will be staged at the Theater Yong at the National Museum of Korea from April 23 to May 29.

Although the title is the same, Yoo’s company has been fine-tuning the piece every year.

This year, there will be no more a story teller on stage and more focus on the message that teamwork and courage are important in realizing a dream, Yoo said.

“Every year, we’re trying to change ourselves to present it better. I always tell my employees to enjoy the work and make every one involved happy,” he said.

While Yoo Yeol Company’s first musical hit is an adaptation of a globally well-known German content, the second one will feature a traditional Korean story in a global format.

For the past year and a half, the company has been preparing to present “Sugung Fantasy,” an adaptation from a famous Korean pansori “Sugungga,” at the upcoming Daegu Musical Festival in July. “Sugungga” is a story of a rabbit who lies to a terrapin and his ill King, living under the sea, that he has left his liver in the forest, to run away from the King’s plan to cure his disease by eating the rabbit’s liver.

A Korean writer who studied in New York rewrote the scenario and an American composer created music for the musical.

“I thought it was important to work with non-Korean people to make Korean culture appeal to the global audience. After the Daegu premier, my goal is to enter New York’s theater scene three years later,” Yoo said.

The singer, who swept the K-pop ballad scene in the 1980s and 1990s after winning a national college singing competition in 1986, said he also plans to release an album in the second half of the year.

His latest remake album was out in 2005.

“With a brass big band, I plan to record some new songs and my favorite old songs,” the bachelor said, adding that he hopes to get married within the year.

“The Bremen’s band” is to be held at the Theater Yong at the National Museum of Korea April 23 to May 29. Tickets range from 30,000 won to 50,000 won. For details, call 1544-5955.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)

<한글요약>

유열: '문화적인 어린 시절이 없다면...'

가수 유열은 몇 년 전까지만 해도 자신이 어린이 뮤지컬을 제작하는 회사를 운영하게 될 줄은 생각 못했다. 

그랬던 그에게 2006년에 어린이 뮤지컬 “브레멘 음악대”를 제작한 이후부터 조금씩 좋은 어린이 뮤지컬을 만드는 데 평생을 열정적으로 헌신 할 수 있겠다는 생각이 들기 시작했다.

“자연스럽게 어린이 문화 컨텐츠 사업을 시작했는데 하면 할수록 잘하고 싶었고 더 끌리게 되더라고요. 제가 죽을 때까지 열정적으로 할 수 있는 일은 딱 두 가지에요. 노래와 뮤지컬,” 라고 유열은 최근 코리아헤럴드와의 인터뷰에서 말했다.

왜 어린이 문화에 관심이 많은가라는 질문에 그는 “문화적인 어린이 시절 없이 문화적인 어른이 될 수 없다”라는 소신을 밝히며 어린이 공연에 공연장 대관료를 어른 공연과 똑같이 적용한 다는 것은 불합리하다고 말했다.

어린이 뮤지컬이어서 수익이 적게 남에도 불구하고 뮤지컬 “브레멘 음악대”는 2006년 이후 꾸준히 공연되어 왔고 누적 관객수가 최근 35만 명을 돌파했다.

2009년에는 독일의 브레멘시와 오펜바흐시의 초청을 받아 현지 공연을 하기도 했다.

올해에는 국립중앙박물관 극장 용에서 4월 23일부터 5월 29일까지 한국 관객들을 만난다.

유열은 그 다음 작품은 “수궁 판타지”라고 밝히며 오는 7월 대구 페스티벌 초연을 위해 지난 1년 반 동안 준비해왔다고 말했다. 

올해 만으로 50세인 그는 올해 안에 브라스 밴드와 새 앨범을 발표하고, 결혼도 하고 싶다고 말했다.

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