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Creators localize Broadway musical 'Something Rotten!'

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The musical
The musical "Something Rotten!" / Courtesy of M Theatre

By Park Ji-won

The Korean production of the Broadway musical "Something Rotten!" has added acting details and lines for actors and new tempos familiar to Koreans, creators said.

Set in London in 1595, the story written by John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and composed by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, follows the struggles of creators such as the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, for making a hit musical at a time when William Shakespeare, who is depicted as a rock star to his contemporaries, was dominating the theatrical show scene.

When their new work, "Richard II," is scrapped after Shakespeare's announcement that his next work will be on the same subject, older brother Nick becomes desperate and visits a diviner to find out what is going to be a big hit in theater in the future.

The Broadway musical premiered in Korea in 2019 and the first Korean production was unveiled the next year. This time it's running from Dec. 23, 2021, to April. 10, 2022, the second time for the Korean version to be showcased.

Director Lee Gi-na, who has been directing multiple musicals and plays, said during a press conference held Wednesday that she tried to design characters familiar to Korean audiences.

She also said that she added more features into each character while keeping their originality.

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Music director Kim Sung-soo described the musical adjustments he made by saying "I put my energy into changing the music's tempo, especially in the number 'Omelette,' so that Korean actors find it comfortable to act. I found the rhythms of Korean actors and Broadway actors are different."

Kim added, "In the premiere, I insisted on keeping the tempo of the original Broadway version … In terms of 'A Musical' number, I was told to change its original version into Korean and already newly arranged its numbers in the first run."

Lee added that in the number, "A Musical," the Korean production used Korea-friendly numbers from various musicals instead of presenting the Broadway version which presents songs well-known to audiences in Broadway and the West End. He didn't elaborate on what songs are included in the Korean version.

In the original version, there are over 20 references to lines, numbers and scenes of hit musicals such as "Les Miserables," "Cats," "Rent," Avenue Q," "Chicago" and "A Chorus Line."

"A Musical," in particular, is one of the musical's highlights as it is a patchwork of signature songs from famous musicals such as "Les Miserables," "Notre-Dame de Paris," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats," elevating the mood of audiences.

Nam Kyung-joo, a veteran musical actor who plays Thomas Nostradamus, said he has sung two-thirds of the songs referenced in "A Musical."

In addition to Nam, new actors have joined the production this time. Lee Choong-joo and Yang Yo-seop alternate playing the role of Nick, while Hwang Soon-jong is Nigel, Yoon Ji-sung plays Shakespeare, Jung Won-young is Nostradamus and Lee Young-mi, Ahn Yoojin and Lee Chae-min alternate for Bea Bottom.

Yoon, who plays Shakespeare, said, "Shakespeare has an inferiority complex and a similar amount of confidence at the same time. Even though I am not as confident as Shakespeare, I am trying to show his rock star attitude for the era."

"Something Rotten!" will run at Universal Art Center until April 10.
Park Ji-won

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