[ON STAGE]Come see this classic, old chum"I owe a debt to Sam Mendes" said the producer and translator of "Cabaret," Kim Cheol-ri.
Kim has heavily applied Sam Mendes's production notes in his Korean staging of the famous musical, but the debt has paid off: The Korean production of "Cabaret" is one of the best musicals to play locally in years.
Mendes is a young and already successful producer. His revival of "Cabaret" has enjoyed a long run on Broadway. In addition, this genius in his 30s also distinguished himself in the movies by winning Oscars for best director and best movie with his debut film, "American Beauty," in 2000.
Korean audiences already had the opportunity to enjoy Mendes's theatrical work when the Royal National Theater brought "Othello" to the Seoul Arts Center in 1998.
But in the local version of "Cabaret," the artistic hand of Kim is even more visible than Mendes's. The simple yet to-the-point production exhibits many of Kim's stylings, regardless of how much credit he cares to give Mendes.
Kim's success suggests how translated plays should be approached in the future. My praise goes out to his frank and insightful way of taking in the original producer's intentions - a seemingly simply idea that is all too frequently ignored.
"Cabaret" sets itself in the Berlin of the 1930s, right before the emergence of Nazism. There is a love affair between a cabaret dancer, Sally (Choe Jeong-won), and an American writer, Cliff (Jeong Dong-hwan). In the first act, their newfound love is shattered by the political whirlpool surrounding the National Socialists. The second act is the song of the couple's parting.
The theme is, in short, that "individuals cannot break free from the chains of history."
But "Cabaret" enforces no simple message. Rather, it balances contrary factors, such as the mental and the physical, individual and society, and emotion and reason. The play shines with the beauty of their coexistence and Kim's great ability to transplant Mendes's ideas to the Korean actors and stage directions.
Unlike other musicals that concentrate mainly on singing and dancing, "Cabaret" is a drama first and foremost, requiring skilled acting. Happily, the performers are up to this high-level challenge.
For tickets and more information, call 02-580-1300.
by Jeong Je-wal