Musical actor selected to play his Sam againHe hasn’t played many main characters. His action is so subtle it’s not easy to recognize his presence on the stage at first sight. But he has the power to impress an audience while harmonizing with the other actors on stage.
Sung Ki-youn is not one of the most well-known musical actors in Korea, but more Koreans may learn his name soon.
The original British creative team behind “Mamma Mia!,” in which Sung played Sam in the 2004 Korean production, said he was the best in the world at the role.
For this year’s performance, the team again selected Sung for the role without an audition: he was the only actor chosen without an audition for the 2006 production.
“Of course, I was really happy to hear the news,” Sung said with a smile at a recent interview with the JoongAng Daily.
“I tried to express Sam as naturally as possible without exaggerating, like I would probably do in a drama,” he said. “But at the same time, I tried to express the delicate feeling Sam might have had, and tried not to miss a thing, even in a very brief moment.”
Sung majored in drama at college and started his career 15 years ago in “Cats” but has never appeared in a straight play.
“Although I majored in drama at college, I also took many modern dance classes,” Sung said. After graduation, a former professor who was about to produce “Cats” in Korea for the first time asked Sung to join the troupe.
Since then, he has played Max in “The Sound of Music,” Jamie in “The Last Five Years,” Tom Collins in “Rent,” Billy in “Chicago,” Paul in “Kiss me Kate,” Michael in “Tick, Tick... Boom!” and Zoser in “Aida.”
“Drama consists only of dialogue. But we go to see a play, not to hear it. In that sense, I like doing musicals where I can express things using my body,” Sung said. “In musicals, I don’t see any limits in expressing the character.”
When asked about the French musicals “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Les Dix Commandements,” which have only songs and no dialogue and recently attracted many Korean viewers, Sung said “I think Europeans are more open in accepting total theater, without being restricted to one genre or one format.”
The Europeans understand acting, dancing and singing are only tools to express a piece, Sung added. “In Korea, people don’t consider the ensemble as being as important as the main actors.”
Sung has never taken a role in a musical created by Koreans but focused solely on licensed productions. He said he feels Korean “creators” consider the process of putting on a musical as easy.
“Under the situation of a lack of time, finance and labor, they cannot make a good production,” Sung said. “If they feel proud of their piece, they should keep working on it for years by modifying the production, even though the first result was not satisfactory."
He said patience like that of “Rent” writer Jonathan Larson, who worked on his piece for five years before it finally got shown on stage, is missing in Korean producers.
by Park Sung-ha
“Mamma Mia!” will be staged at the Opera House of the Seoul Arts Center from June 18, at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on weekends. There are no shows on Mondays. Ticket prices vary from 30,000 won ($32) to 130,000 won.