Yoo Yeon-jeong steps on the musical stage and shows she's more than just an idol

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Yoo Yeon-jeong steps on the musical stage and shows she's more than just an idol

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

 
K-pop stars who foray into musical theater are often viewed with a certain level of contempt in an industry that too often resorts to casting idols who fall short of musical theater caliber, in order to rake in more ticket sales.
 
Girl group WJSN member Yoo Yeon-jeong, however, has proven herself a formidable new talent in the industry.  
 
The 23-year-old made her musical theater debut earlier this year through a local production of the American rock-n-roll musical “Lizzie” and is currently starring in the screen-to-stage adaption of the musical “Crash Landing on You” as Seo Dan, a North Korean heiress who falls in love with a conman from South Korea.  
 
She alternates the role with two other actors, Kim I-hoo and Song Ju-hee.

 
Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

 
The musical "Crash Landing On You" follows the exact narrative of the 2019 tvN drama series of the same title, which is about the romantic relationship between a South Korean chaebol heiress played by actor Son Ye-jin, and a North Korean military officer portrayed by Hyun Bin, who fall in love after the heiress accidentally lands in North Korea while paragliding.

 
Though the main plot revolves around the romance between two other characters, Yoo said that she was ecstatic to hear that she had been offered the role of Seo Dan.
 
“While the main love story is great, I was more of a fan of the drama’s secondary love story between Seo Dan and Gu Seung-jun,” said Yoo during an interview at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Monday. “Seo Dan is a charming character, especially because of how she seems so cold on the outside but is actually a very warm and adorable person inside.
 
Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong [STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT]

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong [STARSHIP ENTERTAINMENT]

 
Yoo’s news of casting on the show also reached fans around the world.
 
“I got messages from fans saying that they hoped the musical would get staged in their countries,” said Yoo. “It’s amazing how much popularity the drama has garnered internationally.”  
 
According to Popmusic and T2N Media last week, which holds the copyright for the musical “Crash Landing On You,” the musical will be filmed and screened around Asia.
 
It will also be staged live in Japan as the companies signed a contract with Japanese television station Fuji TV earlier this month and gave the channel the exclusive rights to the musical version of “Crash Landing on You.”
 
Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

 
But creating a new, homegrown musical wasn't an easy process, said Yoo.  
 
“It was difficult to pack a 16-part series into just three hours,” she said. “Changes to our lines and lyrics were made until the last minute. During practice, the actors had a lot of say in building the characters as well. It really was a group effort, which has made this show very meaningful for me.”  
 
Yoo is still a rookie actor when it comes to musical theater. According to her, she hasn’t even had any real acting lessons yet.

 
“Performing on the musical theater stage was one of my dreams, but I didn’t think that the opportunity would come by this quickly,” said Yoo. “I am grateful for the love and support of my fans who I know have helped me step into this new career,” she said.
 
Yoo first appeared on screen six years ago as an aspiring K-pop star on "Produce 101" (2016), Mnet's K-pop girl group survival program, at the age of 17.

 
Best recognized for her powerful vocals, she received a final vote count of 136,780 and just made the cut by coming in 11th of the 11 finalists who got to debut as a girl group.

 
I.O.I, the survival program's project girl group, debuted in May 2016 through the EP "Chrysalis" and its lead track "Dream Girls."

 
The group disbanded in January 2017 after releasing a number of songs including "Crush" (2016), "Whatta Man" (2016) and "Downpour" (2017).

 
She is now part of the 13-member girl group WJSN, otherwise known as Cosmic Girls, which has released hits such as "I Wish" (2017) and "As You Wish" (2019).
 
Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

Singer and actor Yoo Yeon-jeong performs as Seo Dan in the ongoing musical ″Crash Landing On You″ at COEX Shinhan Card Artium in Songpa District, southern Seoul. [ATOZ ENTERTAINMENT, T2N MEDIA]

 
This year in particular has been incredible busy and fulfilling, said Yoo.
 
Yoo performed in “Lizzie” from April to June. Simultaneously, she appeared on Mnet’s girl group survival program “Queendom 2” which began in April, as a member of WJSN. In June, WJSN held an in-person concert “Wonderland” in Seoul. The following month, the girl group released the EP “Sequence.”
 
“I would be on the set of ‘Queendom’ well past midnight, then perform on stage for ‘Lizzie’ in the evening of the same day,” she said. “It was the busiest time of my life, and there were days that I wondered if it was possible to carry out this schedule.”
 
Though her additional career as a musical theater actor made her busier, she said that it has actually been like fuel to her, reminding her of why she loves performing on stage and singing.
 
“I had forgotten what it feels like to be so nervous before going on stage,” said Yoo. “After so many years of working as a K-pop idol, I think I had gotten used to going on stage. But as I began acting in musical theater, I felt that flutter in my stomach again. I remembered why I loved singing on stage. It made me feel more alive.”  
 
“Crash Landing On You” runs through Nov. 13 at the COEX Shinhan Card Artium.

BY LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joongang.co.kr]
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