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Curtain rises on latest version of ‘Miso’

Chongdong Theater dreams of stage in Las Vegas

Chongdong Theater launched on Wednesday the latest version of “Miso,” the theater’s Korean traditional musical with modern twists.

The new version, “Miso 3,” follows the 2011 version “Miso 2: Silla, the Land of Gods” and the 2009 original “Miso: Love Songs from Chunhyang.” The musical started off in 1997 under the title, “Traditional Art Stage” and later changed its brand name to “Miso” in 2009.

“Miso 3” is an adaption of the tale of Chunhyang. The Korean folktale is about a beautiful girl named Chunhyang from Namwon, North Jeolla Province, who endures the jealous schemes of a corrupt official and then marries her true love, Mongryong, with the aid of her faithful servants Bangja and Hyangdan.

A scene from “Miso 3” (Chongdong Theater)

A scene from “Miso 3” (Chongdong Theater)

The theater has little concern about the language barrier. Over 15 years, the Chongdong Theater has staged 4,200 performances and attracted 720,000 visitors, over 85 percent of whom are foreigners.

“We have additional projectors for video clips and subtitles in four languages… We also distribute guidebooks and other sources to aid the viewers’ understanding of the plot. Above all, the musical is about a universal theme, love, so that will help,” general director Choi Jeong-im said. 

Choi Jeong-im, general director of Chongdong Theater, speaks at a press conference on Wednesday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Choi Jeong-im, general director of Chongdong Theater, speaks at a press conference on Wednesday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The new version employs a number of changes to remain faithful to the original folklore and to help the audience get a firm grip on the plot at the same time.

Artistic director Kim Chung-han said, “The previous ‘Miso’ stood somewhat apart from the original tale, so we tried to work on that. We changed about 80 percent of our music,” said Kim Chung-han, the show’s artistic director.

Further changes are made to satisfy the different tastes of the audience members, who are from diverse cultural backgrounds.

“A survey showed that some people liked pansori, and some people did not. It was exactly the same with minyo (folk song-style) and neo-gukak songs. So we put a piece from each category into one performance,” Chongdong Theater said. Korean traditional instrumental music such as giak and samulnori also boost the merry, festive atmosphere of the performance.

Changes were made to depict the characters’ inner state of mind. While Chunhyang in the older version subtly wavers between authority and love, the one in the newest version remains steadfast to the latter. Hakdo, the official who seeks to make Chunhyang his mistress, in the later version is more thoroughly evil.

Wednesday’s performance also marked the appointment of Park Yong-maan as the theater’s chairman of the board.

“We have high expectations and appreciation for chairman Park. While some corporate giants often try to stay away from traditional cultural businesses, since they are not so lucrative, he was very willing to support. I think chairman Park took up the position as a sign of his affection for the field,” Choi said.

Choi revealed her plan to make “Miso” a globally recognized performance.

“Our ultimate goal is to create universally-selling cultural contents. We are doing our best to make our dream come true by staging ‘Miso’ in Las Vegas.”

The musical has been performed in 110 cities of 65 countries.

By Chung Joo Won (