Korean cast creates a singular sensation

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Korean cast creates a singular sensation


The cast of the Korean production of “A Chorus Line” Provided by Nine Culture

For an actor, there is nothing more brutal than the audition. It is a nerve-wracking ritual that cannot be avoided, and the moment when a cut is announced can make or break a career. This is the premise of “A Chorus Line,” which tells the story of 17 dancers who are auditioning for spots on a Broadway chorus line.

The realistic story and catchy musical numbers provide a behind the scenes glimpse at the cutthroat world of musical theater, culminating in the final scenes featuring the song “One.”

The show was such a hit when it premiered in New York that it eventually became one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. It received 12 Tony Award nominations and won nine of them, including Best Musical. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1976. Since then the show has been seen in theaters worldwide. It was revived on Broadway in 2006 and is currently touring the United States.

The legendary musical will be presented here with a Korean cast. Although it is not the first time the musical will be seen on Korean stages, it is the first time that members of the original production team have been involved with restaging the production.

“I’m happy to be here, bringing you Michael Bennett’s ‘A Chorus Line,’” Baayork Lee, who directed the Korean production of the show, said in a press conference last week in Samseong-dong.

Lee, who starred as Connie in the original musical directed and choreographed by Bennett, is currently known as a choreographer and theater director.

Prior to being cast as the character who sings about the difficult of growing up “four foot ten,” Lee had a thriving performing career and even appeared in George Balanchine’s production of “The Nutcracker,” but A Chorus Line cemented her place in musical theater history.

“[A Chorus Line] is my life ... It opened the door to the world for me and it made me the person that I am today,” Lee said.

“A Chorus Line is based on the story of real dancers and their lives, particularly what they actually undergo during an audition, and the show has dramatized it,” Kim Jin-man, the Korean co-director said. “It would be correct to say that our production began this March when we started to audition applicants for each role in the show and launched a workshop to train the candidates.”

“The dancers in [A Chorus Line] sing, dance and act, and because this is the first time that a musical focusing on the chorus is performed in Korea, we had to do a workshop to train the Korean actors so their performances would be even in the end,” Lee said. “I’m hoping that A Chorus Line will make a difference here.”

While Lee said she has worked with companies in about 35 countries around the world on the revival of the musical, the Korean team of actors is “one of the hardest working companies” she has ever worked with.

The show is meaningful for the Korean actors, as well.

Lee Hyun-jeong, who plays the veteran dancer Cassie, said, “Because I myself was a dancer before I became a musical theater actor, A Chorus Line is sort of my own story, and I feel it even more strongly when I am dancing during the show.”

Meanwhile, veteran stage actors Nam Kyung-eup and Im Chul-hyung, who alternate in the role of Zach, have worked together before, but not on stage. Im was one of Nam’s students when he was in high school.

“Since this is the first time that I’ve shared a role with one of my students, this is very emotional for me, as well as a pleasure,” Nam said.

“In A Chorus Line, all of the dancers should act as one, but at the same time they should shine as individuals as they reveal things about their lives,” Kim, the Korean co-director said. “So when they step out of the line and recount parts of their lives - starting from past to present and into the foreseeable future - before their colleagues and the audience, it’s not just the actors, but also the audience that sees how their lives have unfolded and realizes that each one is valuable.”

The musical was written in 1975 and is set in a Broadway theater, which may lead some to wonder whether significant revisions had to be made for the current Korean production.

“Though A Chorus Line is a story from many years ago, I don’t think things are that much different from what they were then because the show basically deals with the lives of the dancers,” said Kim.

However, the 30-minute preview I saw last Tuesday left me with many doubts. The stories told by the actors are pretty much the same as in the original musical, which could make it difficult for Korean audiences to relate to them. Moreover, the plain structure of the show, which simply spotlights one actor at a time as they step out of the chorus line to tell their stories, could disappoint audiences who may be expecting the dynamic trappings of the musicals of today.

*A Chorus Line runs until Aug. 22 at the Coex Artium in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; at 3 and 8 p.m. on Wednesdays; at 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays; and at 2 and 6 p.m. on Sundays. There are no performances on Mondays.

Go to Samseong Station, line No. 2, exit 6. Tickets range from 60,000 won to 100,000 won. Reservations can be made by calling Yes24 (1544-6399), Interpark (1544-1555) and Ticketlink (1588-7890). For more information, call (02) 722-8884 or visit www.achorusline.co.kr.

By Park Sun-young [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]
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