The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] ‘Beetlejuice’ the ideal comedy musical: actor Jung Sung-hwa

By Im Eun-byel

Published : July 22, 2021 - 18:37

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Jung plays the role of Beetlejuice in the musical “Beetlejuice.” (CJ ENM) Jung plays the role of Beetlejuice in the musical “Beetlejuice.” (CJ ENM)

The seemingly effortless improvisations and ad-libs during the musical “Beetlejuice” belie the meticulous planning down to the minor details and countless practices that went into the show, stage actor Jung Sung-hwa said.

Inspired by the iconic 1988 Tim Burton film of the same title, the musical began its Seoul run at the Sejong Center on July 6. Jung plays the lead role Beetlejuice in the show, the lonely ghost who has been living in the Netherworld for 9.8 billion years by himself.

“‘Beetlejuice’ is the most ideal comedy musical,” Jung said during a press interview held online Wednesday.

Jung, a musical star, debuted in 1994 as a comedian. His musical debut came 10 years later through “I Love You” in 2004. Starring in the musical “Man of La Mancha” as Don Quixote in 2007, he became a major stage actor, taking lead roles in musicals such as “Kinky Boots,” “Les Miserables” and more.

“Everything in the show is planned out meticulously,” he said. “Many comedy musicals tend to rely to on the actor’s talent and humor. But this musical’s charm lies in the planned out harmony. It is the most developed form of a musical.” 

Stage actor Jung Sung-hwa (ParkWith Entertainment) Stage actor Jung Sung-hwa (ParkWith Entertainment)

According to Jung, the musical, which is almost like a stand-up comedy show hosted by Beetlejuice, is delicately mapped out. Actors’ movements have to be exact -- they have to be at the exact spot at the exact time for the play to work.

“In the musical, I try to appeal to the audience as the character Beetlejuice, not as actor Jung Sung-hwa. I can make the audiences laugh when I pull off my character successfully,” he said.

The Seoul run of the show is the first official showing of the musical outside of Broadway. The 2018 musical has never been shown outside of the US before the Seoul run.

“I was worried about how the musical would be received by the local audience. Localization was biggest challenge,” Jung said.

“I want to give everything I have to this work. But with the opening delayed two weeks, the show is soon to close,” he said, referring to how the musical’s opening was postponed for two weeks due to “technical issues.”

“I am sure though that there will be a second season of the show. Next time, there won’t be any delays,” he said.

The comedy musical delves into topics of life and death.

“Being in this show, I came to think that death is part of life. I should not fear or be depressed about death or the afterlife. Accepting death can make life happier. I hope the audiences can realize this, too,” he said.

With the performing arts scene under constant threat of the pandemic, the big-name stage actor does not have definite plans about his next work, saying he hopes to spend some time with his family.

Yet, he seems to already have his sights set on a new original Korean musical.

“I want to do an original Korean musical work that is as good as ‘Beetlejuice,’” Jung said. “It is the first time for a Broadway musical to come to Korea before being licensed in other countries. This means that Broadway is paying attention to the local musical scene, and that we have the potential.”

By Im Eun-byel (