From Paris to Seoul

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From Paris to Seoul

For the French-Canadian actor who’s about to play the hunchback of Notre Dame in Korea, understanding his character involved remembering what it was like to be rejected by a girl at age 14.
That was just one of the insights into the upcoming production of the musical “Notre Dame de Paris” offered by its two stars at a promotional press conference last week.
Matt Laurent, who plays the hunchback Quasimodo, and Algeria native Nadia Bel, who plays the gypsy dancer Esmeralda, held a press conference at the Sofitel Ambassador Hotel on Jan. 27, and sang songs from the musical later that day at Hyundai Department Store in Samseong-dong. The musical, based on Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” opens Feb. 25 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and runs to March 20.
The French musical was first performed in France and became a European hit, seen by more than 10 million people in 11 countries; a collection of songs from the musical topped a French music chart for 17 weeks.
Like an opera, the musical’s story is advanced entirely through songs, with no spoken dialogue.
Mr. Laurent and Ms. Bel have performed together in “Notre Dame” more than 200 times.
At the press conference, Mr. Laurent seemed confident that the musical would appeal to Koreans. “You will never get enough of the songs in our performance,” he said, adding that the musical would be very different from Broadway musicals.
“I personally like Broadway musicals for many reasons, except when the actors do not express their full emotions,” he said. “In ‘Notre Dame de Paris,’ the music’s dramatic power is very much emphasized. The actors express the characters’ passion to the highest extent through songs.”
Mr. Laurent said that in playing Quasimodo, the hunchback, he tried to think back to the age of 14, when he was rejected by a girl he liked.
Ms. Bel called Esmeralda a very complicated character. “Esmeralda is a strong woman. She has many different qualities as well. She is wild and sensitive, but doesn’t get swayed by others easily.”
Not surprisingly, the two were complimentary toward each other.
“Nadia is very charismatic on stage. Her voice grabs your heart from the beginning of her first song,” said Mr. Laurent.
“Matt is a fantastic actor. His voice and power on the stage is overwhelming,” said Ms. Bel.
Mr. Laurent said his favorite music in the performance is a song called “Belle,” about Esmeralda’s beauty, sung by three men who are in love with her.
“We will try our best to present the greatest moment for our Korean audiences,” Mr. Laurent said. “I hope Koreans come and enjoy our musical without guessing the musical would be like this or that. Just come and comfortably enjoy the magic.”
Tickets to the show will range from 40,000 won to 150,000 won. Call 1544-1555 or 1588-7890.

by Choi Sun-young
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