Sex, Mozart and a blonde rock musical awards
The Musical Awards, which mark their 4th anniversary this year, are scheduled for Monday and the competition is fiercer than ever. Of the 19 award categories, the one for Best Foreign Musical will be one of the most closely watched. Acclaimed for their artistic presentation, Korean adaptations of foreign musicals continue to draw large crowds here. The five musicals vying for the award this year were alternately thought-provoking, controversial and heartwarming.
Already well-known due to the popularity of the film starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical’s chances for success depend heavily on whether the judges think the Korean adaptation was natural enough to allow audiences to identify with the characters. The musical’s stronger points are catchy lyrics and a convincing portrayal of the changing desires and social status of women. Leading ladies Kim Ji-woo and Lee Honey, who play Elle Woods, have also been nominated for Leading Actress and New Actress, respectively.
Instead of simply promoting lead actor Xiah Junsu, a member of the popular boy band Dong Bang Shin Gi, a?k?a TVXQ, “Mozart!” boasted a high level of sophistication with exceptional musical numbers, glamorous costumes and dynamic sets. Hungarian composer Sylvester Levay’s music in particular induces nostalgic sentiments while retaining depth, especially with songs such as “Can’t Avoid My Destiny.” Unlike the film “Amadeus” (1984), which focused on the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, the musical’s story line sticks to Mozart’s inner conflicts. Buttressed with the powerful vocals of actors including Shin Young-sook, Jeong Seon-ah and Seo Beom-seok, Mozart! was one of this year’s biggest hits on the local musical scene. It is regarded as the most successful engagement of a teen idol in a musical.
Without a doubt, this musical provoked the most controversy this season. Refreshingly, the stage remained simple and had no set changes from beginning to end. But the instant the characters took up the microphone, the excitement made the theater throb like a concert hall. Content that could have been viewed as controversial was not censored at all. Even the explicit sex and suicide scenes were included in the Korean version, which like the original tells the story of teenagers becoming aware of their sexual identities. “Spring Awakening” won seven Tony Awards in 2007 for its vivid, dramatic illustration of the identity crises, despair, pain and rebelliousness of teenagers.
“The Wedding Singer”
A man and woman in separate relationships are thrown together at a wedding, fight constantly and eventually fall in love. It’s a story that’s been told over and over in different versions. Yet, this familiarity is exactly what makes “The Wedding Singer” endearing. Subtle, well-placed details render the plot more convincing as it unfolds. Tremulous gazes and painful misunderstandings induce the audience to connect and empathize with the characters. The music is not laden with powerful vocals, but instead characters sing in low, comfortable tones as if they are having a conversation. Critics here said that the way the songs were smoothly incorporated into the musical added polish to the production.
No songs, little dialogue, and an enormous amount of dancing. This odd combination is what earned “Contact” four Tony awards in 2000. Made up of three acts, the central characters express a longing to make a romantic connection. A noblewoman deviates from daily life in the first act. In Act Two, a married woman’s hidden desire is drawn in a comic manner. But the highlight of the musical was Act 3, a contemporary piece that explored the career-driven lives of New Yorkers.
*The 4th Musical Awards will be held at 7 p.m. on June 7 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Go to Gwanghwamun Station, line No. 5, exit 1. For more, call (02) 2000-6196 or visit www.themusicalawards.co.kr.
By Choi Min-woo [firstname.lastname@example.org]