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Green witch works her magic in Korea

‘Wicked’ cast members open up about being part of the iconic musical

Members of the cast of “Wicked” pose for photos during a press event at Blue Square in Itaewon, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Members of the cast of “Wicked” pose for photos during a press event at Blue Square in Itaewon, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

After months of shutdown, the local performing arts scene has finally begun to return to a new normal. The comeback is led by a green-skinned witch, riding on a broomstick.

The musical “Wicked” opened this month at Blue Square in Itaewon, central Seoul. Though still affected by the government’s social distancing rules, which require that every other seat be left vacant, the show is recording sellouts.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” -- inspired by the L. Frank Baum classic “The Wizard of Oz” -- the musical tells the story of two unlikely friends: Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

A scene from “Wicked” (Clip Service)
A scene from “Wicked” (Clip Service)

“Due to the pandemic, ‘Wicked’ is closed around the world and Korea is the first country to bring the show back to the stage. There is a sense of pride in this,” said Ock Ju-hyun, who plays Elphaba in the musical.

“I cannot forget meeting the audience on the first day of the performance. It was epic,” said the actor. It is Ock’s second time taking on the role since the show premiered in South Korea in 2013.

“Now that some years have passed and I have aged, I have learned that there are also other joys that I can deliver (onstage),” she said. “The show is glamorous and the message is even more grand.”

Another acclaimed cast member is musical actor Jeong Seon-ah, who is playing Glinda for the third time.

“I am more nervous than ever. Perhaps it is because of the virus pandemic (and the difficulties that the show went through due to it),” Jeong said.

“I am thankful to the audiences who come to the theater in this situation. A new era has begun (after the pandemic breakout). ‘Wicked’ is writing new history, showing how to enjoy performances in a new era,” she said.

When the licensed Korean-language version premiered in Korea in 2013, Ock and Jeong were seen as the perfect pair to portray the two female leads.

Son Seung-yeon, winner of the Mnet audition show “Voice of Korea,” joins the cast this season as Elphaba.

“I was preparing for a new album when I was cast in the role. I had to do this, because it is ‘Wicked,’” Son said. “Some come to this show five, six times and even 10 times. I was overwhelmed at first.”

“When going on the stage for ‘Wicked,’ I could not even tell whether it is real or a dream,” said Na Ha-na, who has just joined the show as Glinda. “I could see that the show was put together by those who truly love ‘Wicked.’”

“Wicked” runs until May 1 in Seoul. After the Seoul run, it will move to Busan.

By Im Eun-byel (