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Musical ‘The Merchant of Venice’ plays at Sejong Center

A musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic “The Merchant of Venice” is being staged until June 16 at the M Theater of Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

The Korean-language production is directed by Park Geun-hyung and performed by the Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theater.

The piece follows the original storyline of the 16th century play, which takes off after Bassanio seeks a large sum of money for his expenses on the way to woo beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia. His friend Antonio, a merchant of Venice -- with all his investments sailing at the moment -- borrows money from a notorious loan shark Shylock, who lends the money in exchange for a pledge to forfeit a pound of his flesh upon failure to pay back.

(Sejong Center for the Performing Arts)
(Sejong Center for the Performing Arts)

Bassanio’s attempt to win Portio’s affection is successful, but troubles surface when Antonio’s ships flounder at sea.

According to its creators, the musical challenges the viewers to ponder “upon what kind of person Shylock is in this day and age.”

The iconic antagonist, characterized by the moneylender stereotypes and anti-Semitic tradition of the times, has been reinterpreted in numerous mediums since. In the 2004 film adaptation of the play, actor Al Pacino portrays Shylock confronting Antonio and delivering the famous “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech .

“Transforming a story set in the Shakespeare’s time to appeal more to sentiments of Koreans in the 21st century presented a myriad of challenges. In the process, I got rid of the elements that could be interpreted as religious and focused on Shylock, the human,” said director Park.

“All incidents have cause and effect, and justice does not necessarily prevail all the time. This was my mindset when I started working on this piece,” said songwriter Kim Seong-su, who wrote the lyrics for the musical. “I (wrote the songs) so that (the audience) cannot determine who is right or wrong based on the music.”

The 120-minute-long “The Merchant of Venice” is open to those aged seven or up.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays; and at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays and on June 6. There are no shows on Mondays.

Tickets are priced at 30,000 won to 60,000 won, and are available at the homepage of Sejong Center or Interpark.

By Yoon Min-sik
Korea Herald Youtube