Making a rock star out of Judas

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Making a rock star out of Judas

One of the world’s most famous musicals, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” opened last Thursday at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts for its eighth run in Korea.
One of the first hits by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the “rock opera” about the last days of Christ premiered in the early 1970s, and was first performed in Korea in 1980. Since then, it’s been staged here roughly every four years, usually around Christmas.
This time, singer Kim Dong-uk plays Judas Iscariot, a character perhaps even more central to the musical than Jesus is. Mr. Kim and rock singer Yoon Do-Hyoun, who played the same role eight years ago, recently sat down for a joint interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. The two are close friends, close enough that they’ll sometimes have singing contests at a noraebang.
When Mr. Kim asked Mr.Yoon whether or not he should take the role of Judas, Mr. Yoon’s advice was simple: “You must do it!”
Mr. Yoon says he took the part eight years ago because of his love for the British rock band Deep Purple; the band’s lead singer, Ian Gillan, was the first to sing the role of Jesus. “I didn’t know Judas very well,” Mr. Yoon said. “At that time, I was only 26, and too young to truly understand him,” Mr. Yoon said.
His first reaction was skepticism. “I assumed he was only a betrayer of Jesus. But I learned that Judas loved Jesus, deep down,” Mr. Yoon said.
Mr. Yoon demanded that Mr. Kim play Judas’ mixed emotions with delicacy. “I hoped my friend could do what I couldn’t,” he says.
Many of the performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Korea have differed from the original, which portrayed Jesus in a very human light. Elements of the divine were often added to Korean performances; this one, however, will be closer to the original.
Mr. Kim has attended Catholic churches since he was a child, but his religious background has no clear effect on his approach to the role, he says.
“Playing Judas, I want to express all kinds of contrasting emotions that everyone goes through in life,” he said. “Every time, I experience different emotions. Seeing the human side of Judas and Jesus was strange, yet fascinating. Now Jesus Christ feels less distant from me.”
For the rock music in the show, Mr. Kim ―known for his soft singing style ―has had to change his approach.
Mr. Yoon describes it this way: “At first, his voice was very soft and high-pitched. Now, it feels as if it is stabbing your heart.”
“At first I was nervous about trying a genre I wasn’t familiar with. But now I love it,” Mr. Kim said confidently.
He said his goal is to use the musical to accurately depict human agony. In the scene leading up to Judas’ suicide, Mr. Kim will certainly have his chance.
The show’s run ends on Nov. 28. For tickets, call Ticket Link at 1588-7890, Ticket Park at 1544-1555 or Clip Service at (02) 501-7888. Ticket prices range from 30,000 won ($40) to 120,000 won.

by Baik Sung-ho
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