Hopefuls try out for roles in musical about a clownTall, slender males took turns swaying delicately to music. Some wrapped their arms around themselves, while others waved their hands gracefully.
They then sang in their best falsetto, “It’s a dangerous game,” written for a female role in the musical “Jekyll and Hyde.”
It was not a contest to pick the most feminine, nor a tryout as a counter tenor but the judges demanded that the stage hopefuls give it their best shot anyway.
They were auditioning for a part in the musical, “Yi,” originally a theater play of the same name, but more famous as the film adaptation, “King and the Clown.” The movie, released at the end of last year, has been seen by more than 12 million people, a record in the history of Korean cinema.
The film focuses on a gay love triangle in a 16th century Joseon royal court. A young male clown, Gong-gil, is torn between his love for an older clown, Jang-saeng, and an amorous king, Yeon-san.
Gong-gil was played by a newcomer to the screen, Lee Jun-gi, who immediately caused a cultural phenomenon with his role. His delicate, feminine features in the movie even made the conservative majority in the Korean audience loosen up about the taboo subject of homosexuality.
The phenomenon continued after the Seoul Performing Arts Company said it would produce a musical version of the stage play. The audition was open to all, regardless of acting experience or age.
More than 350 people auditioned for 25 roles as the two clowns, the king and other roles. In March, the aspirants were trimmed to 67. At the final tryout, there were seven Gong-gil hopefuls left.
“We are not looking for a pretty male for this role,” said Kim Tae-ung, the director of the stage version who will direct the musical as well. “We are looking for someone who can sing with emotion because Gong-gil is a very sentimental character.”
Following the acclaim for Lee Jun-gi’s portrayal, however, all those auditioning looked very feminine. One by one, they sang, recited Gong-gil’s lines where he speaks of his pain because of the love triangle and danced as gracefully as possible.
“I told another man that there is the blood of a woman flowing inside me,” is one line the would-be actors had to recite.
Given that the character of Gong-gil is so popular, the producers said the musical will focus on his role rather than the king, as in the play. The musical will end with Gong-gil killing the king. In the film, no one dies, while in the play, Gong-gil kills himself in front of the king.
“This musical will have contemporary songs plus traditional beats,” said Mr. Kim. “It will have a very full sound.”
“It was really hard to be independent when expressing Gong-gil, because his character has become like a trend,”said Kang Pil-seok, one of the seven Gong-gil hopefuls, who said he would not mind playing a gay character. “It’s very new and very hip now.”
by Lee Min-a