|A scene from 'The Beauty,' a jukebox musical featuring songs of Korean rocker Shin Joong-hyun / Courtesy of Hong Company|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Shin Joong-hyun, 80, is a psychedelic rock musician who composed many hit songs that shaped Korea's modern music history.
"The Beauty," one of Shin's numerous hit songs better known for its lyrics "I want to see the person once, twice, or over and over," swept the country in the 1970s and influenced the Korean pop music industry. An EDM version of the song was included in a medley of songs performed at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.
Named after this famous song, a jukebox musical featuring 23 of Shin's songs is currently being staged at the Grand Theater of Hongik University Art Center in Daehangno, northeastern Seoul.
The Korean title "Miin," is often directly translated to beautiful woman, but playwright Lee Hee-jun derived something deeper from the song -- the beauty of passionate people who fought for freedom during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule.
Many jukebox musicals are set during the musician's active period and become somewhat autobiographical, limiting the diversity of plots, but "The Beauty" chose to take a different path.
The musical is set at a silent movie theater Haryungwan in the 1930s. Choi Gang-ho (played by Jung Won-young and Kim Ji-cheol) is a popular silent film narrator who attracts audiences with his witty remarks. He is also a talented musician and befriends Japanese police detective Masao during a music class. But mostly, young Gang-ho is a man who just wants to enjoy himself.
His brother Gang-san (Kim Jong-goo and Lee Seung-hyun) returns home after studying in Japan and reunites with Gang-ho and their old friend Duchi who lets his fists do the talking. Gang-ho falls in love with Byeong-yeon, a modern woman and poet, and wants to join the secret adventure Byeong-yeon and his brother are involved in, but his intention takes an unintended turn and puts all of them in danger.
As the show progresses, Gang-ho decides to use his talents to change the world, not just for his amusement.
The musical shows both the advantages and disadvantages of a jukebox musical. Many of Shin's songs are rearranged to convey the passion of young independence fighters. "Spring Rain," which is performed twice in the first act, portrays the tension between independence activist Gang-san and Japanese police officer Masao in its first appearance and Gang-ho's sorrow and determination when it appears again for the finale of the first act.
Another famous song by Shin, "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains," rounds off the show with the daring youngsters who resisted the Japanese police by doing what they can do best, singing together.
However, some of the songs are inserted into the show without a proper context. Audiences might be glad to listen to Shin's "A Cup of Coffee," but the song just pops up in a scene when the characters are at a coffee shop.
The musical presents a Korean style jukebox musical, packed with hit songs and stylish choreography.
The musical "The Beauty" runs until July 22. For more information, visit ticket.interpark.com or call 1577-3363.