A gisaeng sings in Seoul and lovers fall like flies

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A gisaeng sings in Seoul and lovers fall like flies

Amid the rising popularity of television’s version of the life of Hwang Jin-i, the famous gisaeng, a musical version of her exploits has opened at the Universal Art Center.
Called “Hwangjeeny,” the production focuses on the life of Hwang, a real person who successfully seduced high-powered men in the Chosun dynasty. The musical version has some similarities to the television show, but there is a different story-line and different supporting characters. Hence, fans of the television show who see “Hwangjeeny” might not get what they had hoped for.
One difference is that, in the musical version, Hwang decides to become a gisaeng on the eve of her marriage, after seeing the coffin of a young neighbor, Dan, who had a crush on her. He committed suicide because of her marriage. The television show has not featured this plot line.
After a few years living as a famous gisaeng under another name, Myeongwol, which means “clear moon,” Hwang accidentally meets Soo-chang, who was supposed to be her groom, at an event held in his honor. A tragic love story begins when Hwang falls in love with a poor scholar, Lee Sa-jong, instead of her former fiance.
According to Standing Company, the musical’s production company, they have been preparing the staging of the musical for two years, with a cost of 1.5 billion won.
The composer is Mihael Stadudacher, who won two Korean movie awards for composing the original track for the Korean movie, “Cheong Yeon.” Stadudacher has also composed music for other Korean movies including “Indian Summer.”
The production has two different actresses playing Hwang, as both have little experience in musicals. One is Suh Jeong-hyun, who appeared in the musical version of the hit television show “Winter Sonata” last year. The second, Moon Hye-won, is the lead vocalist of the rock group “Biuret.”
The staging and costumes are flamboyant, making the musical visually breathtaking. The designs of the hanbok are simply stunning.
However, despite its flashy production the musical is spoiled by a story that ends prematurely. Soo-chang has his revenge on Sa-jong but we never see what happens between him and Hwang. This leaves the audience confused, wondering what became of the star-crossed lovers.
The high-pitched singing of counter-tenor, Lee Hee-sang, who plays Dan in the form of a ghost, is not to be missed. A martial art scene also spices up the musical.
The show started on Nov. 25 and will run until Dec. 25.
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday performances will be at 7: 30 p.m., while on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday there will be an additional 3:00 p.m. show. There is no show on Mondays.
Ticket prices range from 40,000 won to 100,000 won.
For ticket reservations visit www.ticketlink.co.kr or www.interpark.com or call 02-523-3111.

by Lee Ho-jeong
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