South Korean Production (오페라의 유령), Daegu, 10/28/10

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South Korean Production (오페라의 유령), Daegu, 10/28/10

Post  Loettchen on Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:00 pm

I'm no hand at writing reviews, but this was such a fun experience for me, I wanted to write about it anyway. Plus, I haven't seen a lot of reviews for the Korean production. Naturally, I may mention some things that are common to the show in many places, but which I simply hadn’t seen before. And, of course, this is all just my opinion. (As an added note, I saw the production after its extension, when it had moved from Seoul to Daegu.)

Anyway, on with the review. Here is the cast I saw. (All surnames are given first in the review.)

Yoon, Yeong-seok - Phantom
Choi, Hyun-ju - Christine
Jung, Sang-yun - Raoul
Kim, Sung-eun - Carlotta
Kim, Yong-goo - Firmin
Kang, Yun-jong - Andre


Something interesting about the Korean production is that there are two sets of main performers, that is, two Phantoms, two Christines, two Raouls, two Carlottas, and two Piangis. They can be heard on the new 2009 Korean Cast CD, which has most of the major songs twice, once with each set. And although I knew it was a bad idea to set my hopes on seeing one or the other, I knew which Phantom and Christine I preferred, so I couldn’t help thinking about it. Well, the first thing I saw when I walked in the theater was the cast list for the night, with my preferred singers for both Phantom and Christine. Guess that was an indicator of the greatness that was to come


Prologue: The first thing I wanted to say was that the sound in the theater was excellent. It was quite loud and very clear, really good quality. So, of course, the overture sounded great.

Hannibal/Think of Me: We opened with Ms. Kim Sung-eun as Carlotta, and I liked her from the first moment. She had a dramatic, self-absorbed flair to everything she did—a clear diva—but she managed to play it subtly enough that she never came off as a clown. I really appreciate this in a Carlotta, and I liked pretty much every aspect of Ms. Kim’s performance. She was a shameless flirt with Andre, clashed with Reyer, and basked in her own glory, and yet, when she complained about the Opera Ghost, you could understand why, and her emotion came across as sincere in spite of its diva-ish dressings. Piangi wasn’t a particular standout, but I did notice that he had no trouble getting on the Elephant. Instead they had him forget his sword, which had to be handed to him, and which he then couldn’t get out of its sheath on time. Another cute touch came when Christine prepared to sing for the managers. As Christine stood there, petrified, Meg bustled around like a little hen, handing her the scarf, fixing her dress and primping her hair, and giving her little encouragements. I noticed that when the cue came for Christine to turn around, after being helped into her Think Of Me skirt, the helpers (which included Mme Giry) didn’t just run away. Instead, they slowly took a few steps back, bowed deeply, and calmly walked off the stage while Think of Me continued. And, perhaps it was just an effect of the excellent audio equipment in the theater, but the fake applause effect at the end of Think of Me, when Christine bows to the fake audience, was quite convincing sounding.

Angel of Music: I liked that the ballet rats let out a collective, audible “Awwwww” of disappointment after being scolded by Giry. Although Choi Hyun-ju did a good job as Christine in Think of Me, this is where she first began to shine for me. As far as Christines go, she was definitely on the cute, innocent end, but she mixed it well with a sort of constant apprehension, as though she knew she was in over her head and was simultaneously excited and scared by the notion. This especially came across in her exchange with Meg, which was very sweet. At the end, when Mme Giry burst into the dressing room, both girls squealed with surprise and jumped, backs straight and stiff against the mirror. When Christine saw that the intruder was only Mme Giry, she let out a sigh of relief. I thought it set the stage nicely for what was coming, showing Christine’s emotional state and establishing both girls as young and impressionable. As for our viscount, Jung Sang-yun's Raoul was the perfect aristocrat, and not in the spoiled, haughty, or delicate way either. He was a self-confidant young man, used to having his way, charming, and sure. The affection between him and Christine was warm and immediately apparent. At his first comment, you could tell Christine knew who he was, indeed, wanted it to be him, but was a little afraid to believe it, and so waited for confirmation before whirling around and embracing him. The two went very well together and I was able to support their relationship all the way through. Once again, Christine added a shade of apprehension to the whole scene. She delivered her “You remember that too?” line in an embarrassed way, as if Raoul were reminding her of an awful haircut she used to have or how she once laughed milk out of her nose. And she was nervous every time they hugged or touched.

AOM/POTO: All of this, of course, led up to the Phantom’s dramatic entrance. Yoon Yeong-seok’s voice was loud, powerful, and commanding, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course, I was already a fan of his before going, so I was/am a little biased. Christine was excellent here as well, sweet and a little childish, and totally earnest, with a voice that made her high notes sound effortless, strong, and bell clear. The journey to the lair was great-looking, with perfect lighting and impressive candelabras. As a cute mishap, when the Phantom tossed his hat, it hit a candelabra and bounced right back to his feet. He had to kick it out of the way for MOTN.

MOTN: Mr. Yoon was a very sane Phantom, powerful, controlling, and direct. His MOTN was the most straightforward and confident interpretation I’ve ever seen. Sometimes the Phantom shies away from touching Christine or shows flashes of vulnerability and inner conflict in the song. I’ve often seen the lines “Turn your face away…, etc.” done with the Phantom pushing Christine away almost desperately or sometimes very sensuously, then turning her back so close they almost kiss, but with the Phantom chickening out at the last second or panicking, as if the closeness were unintentional. Not so here, where the Phantom quite deliberately turned Christine’s face away and back, allowing her to hover in kiss-like nearness and then carefully breaking it off. Every movement in the song seemed carefully planned out and executed by the Phantom, and you could easily conceive of this moment as his big unveiling to Christine, the moment in which he presents her with his plan for their grand future. I think this interpretation was pretty consistent with Mr. Yoon throughout, including the revealing of the mirror bride, during which the Phantom seemed very proud and eager to get Christine’s reaction, which he clearly hoped would be positive. Indeed, his single moment of wavering came when Christine fainted, which was very well-done done on her part. I had very good seats, quite close to the stage, so that helped, but Ms. Choi’s facial expressions were very good. She never seemed like a vacant or vapid Christine. You could always see her thinking about and reacting to things. You could see in her response to the mirror bride that she was a little enthralled by the romance and grandeur of the idea.

Morning After: I have to again applaud Ms. Choi and Mr. Yoon on the unmasking, which was done with perfect timing and totally believable movements. Often, this scene comes off as a little forced/wooden as the Phantom’s actor has to pretend to turn away at just the right moment. But in this case, the movements were very fluid and spontaneous-looking. I would say that, in general, all the character portrayals were on the subtler/less extreme side, and it showed here in Stranger than You Dreamt It. The Phantom was certainly emotional, but never extreme in either his anger or his misery. Through the whole show, I got the distinct feeling (as I hinted at before) of a Phantom who has carefully planned this moment for months and is crushed and bitter about its imperfect execution. Around “Fear can turn…” as he dragged himself across the floor, he lowered his hand from his face, and Christine gave a fresh cringe at seeing it again, causing him to raise his hand back up. Don’t remember if he always does this, but it was a nice touch.

Notes: Buquet’s actor was definitely a character actor and played him nice and hammy, a real jerk, and he had a good moment of tension with Giry, probably the scene in which I noticed her the most. As with the whole production, the choreography and timing in Notes I was excellent. I noticed that the audience laughed at the part which, in English, would be the “wrote-written” joke. I know this joke translated horribly in German and nobody ever laughed when I saw it there (and once I noticed they didn’t even do the joke at all). Whatever they said in Korean, it must have been funny. I should also note that the managers did an excellent job, played well off each other, and managed to clown around without being ridiculous. They weren’t quite the best pair I’ve ever seen, but plenty enjoyable.

Carlotta was great here, showing lots of wounded pride which made her feel very human. You could see how she wanted to be loved and was willing to be convinced by all the flattery and assurances, but was also very angry and disdainful about the whole mess. In general, as I said before, Ms. Kim made Carlotta’s annoyance very understandable, even if the character is not totally innocent in this whole business. It was a good balance of diva antics and real vulnerability. Firmin wasn’t as dry as he sometimes is, but I loved a little touch where he got bored and slumped in the office chair while Carlotta’s back was turned. Andre had to pull him out of it just in time so Carlotta could take a seat. She and Piangi also had some nice, tender moments during the song. Also interestingly, Carlotta acted insulted during one of the managers’ initial lines in Prima Donna, and the next line clearly consoled her. Must’ve been a difference in the lyrics’ meaning, as I haven’t found a line that would cause that reaction in other productions. Maybe someone else has an idea.

Il Muto/Roof: The entire Il Muto was great, particularly Christine, who was hilarious, although there was no note-holding by Don Atillo or anyone else. I know it always happens, but I thought I’d take a moment to say how hilarious I always find Meg’s behavior in this scene. While everyone else soldiers painfully on, at the first hint of the Phantom, Meg just screams and runs straight off the stage, mid-performance. Nice on, Meg. Doesn’t she know the show must go on? The comedy was really on in this scene, althought the Phantom's shadow pantomime was not as funny as usual. Anyway, I don’t know if this always happens, but I didn’t remember seeing Christine screaming after the hanging of Buquet before. Of course, there was a general scream as always, but then Christine rushed out, saw the body, and screamed again, which gave Raoul’s entrance a definite air of protecting/removing her from the trauma. And when Christine delivered her “to the roof” line, it was with real terror.

Raoul did some nice acting here, first visibly scoffing at the “Raoul, I’ve been there” line, then quickly changing to surprise and discomfort as Christine went on. In fact, I really enjoyed the acting in this scene, particularly when they searched the roof for the Phantom. It looked very natural in general, but towards the end, Christine simple collapsed with fear and despair. Seeing her sink to her knees, Raoul called out her name in concern, she looked up, their eyes met, and the scene transitioned into a very warm and sweet AIAOY. Mr. Jung was an all around likeable and affectionate Raoul. And since we all love little screw-ups, towards the end, Raoul’s hand got caught in her wig, but he went on with the scene until he got a chance to subtly jerk his hand free.

The Phantom gave a heartfelt, but again not very extreme, Reprise followed by an amazing chandelier fall. At first, I didn’t think I would like it at all. It started falling very slowly, and I thought, no one is going to be impressed by this. The suddenly it picked up as it changed directions towards Christine, and the timing of the blackout and crashing sounds was perfect, giving the impression that it had really crashed. From my angle (a little to the left of the stage), you couldn’t even be quite sure that Christine had made it out of the way in time. But the part that really worked was just after. The music ended on its usual dramatic note, but the Phantom continued laughing for some moments, slowly fading away while the sound of several smaller crashes continued in the darkness. Then just silence, with the house lights still off, and the audience sitting, wondering and waiting. There was no clear cue that the scene was over, which, I think, forced everyone to wait several seconds in suspense. Suddenly, a sweet female voice announced the intermission and the lights came back on. I think the effect was very jarring and left the audience wanting closure, which was great for intermission.

I should say that I attended the show with several co-workers, and that it was my idea to go. They had all never seen nor heard of the show, didn’t know the story, and in fact, had never listened to or attended a musical in their lives, so I was a little nervous they’d not like it and blame me. Well, the first thing they did in intermission was jump up and run to the lobby to buy the cast recording, so I guess they didn’t hate it! Very Happy

Masquerade: Masquerade was excellent, with wonderful lighting, choreography, and good blending with the mannequins. Christine had a great interaction with the masquerader in the Mandarin costume, where, after bumping into him, he advanced on her in a very sinister fashion. The parallels between his costume and the Phantom’s dressing gown were very obvious here, where I haven’t always felt it so strongly. It seemed to me that they wanted the audience to almost believe the Mandarin might be the Phantom. There was a second or two when he and Christine were interacting totally separate from everyone else, and he really came off as quite threatening. The Red Death got a slow reveal, which went well, and the audience loved his disappearance, although I felt the scene lingered too long on the double, who looked smaller than the real Red Death and didn’t do much.

Notes II/Wishing: Christine and Carlotta’s fight was excellent, with a disdainful, direct Carlotta and an offended, exhausted Christine. Christine’s whole acting was very good, and she broke down a few times. I have to believe that, instead of “She’s mad,” Carlotta said something along the lines of “Craaaazyy,” because you could definitely hear that sort of “Well, that’s it, she’s lost it” tone in her voice. I wish I could say that I noticed more interesting things about this scene, but I didn’t really. It went by very quickly. Although, I’ve always loved Raoul’s lines at the end of the scene, and you could just see here how angry he was at the Phantom and how determined to protect Christine, even if I find his plan a little asinine.



WYWSHA was great. Not only did Ms. Choi have a wonderful, full voice, she matched it with great acting. I love this song, but often find the blocking really dull. Here, she managed to use plenty of body language, movements, and facial expressions to express all the sadness and desperation in the song. The final verse was especially emotional and beautiful. The Phantom’s gentle, quiet “Wandering Child” was met with an innocent, wistful expression, perhaps longing for the simpler times when she simply allowed the Angel to direct her, without questioning. But as the Phantom picked up volume and power, her wistfulness turned to rebellion and she covered her ears and turned away, shaking her head violently against his compelling words, only to be overcome and turn back for a triumphant, “but the soul obeys!” As usual, Raoul was likeable and protective here, almost convinced to leave early on, but then goaded into coming back. I’ve love it when actors give the impression that Raoul is actually trying to engage the Phantom on a personal level here, not just blustering self-importantly around, and that was what I got from these guys.

Point of No Return: My goodness, Christine was all over that apple. Or should I say, that apple was all over Christine. (Which made me think of Raphael. I couldn’t help it!) There was no playful, semi-innocent cleaning it on her bodice. No, she first caressed it back and forth in her hands, almost kneading it, then rubbed it along the side of her face, then ran it up and down her bodice in slow, deliberate movements, lingering in the right places. It would be safe to say that Aminta was seducing Don Juan in this version. In fact, I barely remember what he did at all. Meanwhile, she used extremely flirty dance moves and body language, including dipping back against the table. She was all over the Phantom, overdoing it a bit, perhaps, but the transition from playacting to sudden terror and panic was very dramatic. I also loved her pained, wide-eyed expression as the Phantom began his AIAOY verse, a sort of horror and disbelief that this was really happening. You could almost see her trying to figure out what to do. Speaking of which, the unmasking really got the audience, perhaps partly because the deformity was worse/more extreme than the usual version. I thought it looked a tad fake, but at least it was dramatic.

Final Lair: The trip to the lair was great. Christine was panicking in the boat, trying to think of a way out. She looked like she was considering throwing herself in the lake for a minute, when the Phantom suddenly grabs her, yanks up close to his face, sings at her in angry, bitter tones, then throws her back down into the boat. Quite dramatic.

In the lair, the Phantom was obviously trying to rebuild his perfectly planned-out and controlled little world, delusional and totally ignoring Christine until the end of her opening piece. On “this face,” he seemed less self-pitying and more disappointed that Christine hadn’t been won over, almost talking to himself. It wasn’t, perhaps, the most moving interpretation ever, but it was the logical conclusion of the in-control, deliberate Phantom from earlier in the show. At “Wait, I think, my dear…” however, he was all rage and bitterness. There was no insane laughter, no mocking, just angry, miserable sulking at his plan’s failure and this, the last straw. I thought the dynamic between the three was very good. Raoul did a great job choking on the lasso, making it seem actually threatening and painful, and Christine gave a very emotional and desperate performance. After “Why make her lie to you…” Christine began to menace the Phantom, taking accusatory steps towards him, while he backed away, surprised and nervous. At last, he ran to the throne to get away from her, but she followed him and literally threw herself at his feet, begging. He delivered a firm, but not enraged “Make your choice,” stood up, turned away, and waited painfully for her decision. As did Raoul. As did the audience. Again, Ms. Choi had great facial expressions as it dawns on her that she has no option but to decide one way or the other, and that everyone’s fates rest on her decision in this very moment. She stayed that way for at least 20 seconds (a long time for dead silence in the theater). It was the longest pause I’ve ever seen, and you could feel the audience sitting, holding their breath in anticipation. It was so effective, you almost weren’t sure what she would choose, and it conveyed the horror of the moment very well. I also think it made the kiss more dramatic and the prolonged resignation/impotence of the men definitely emphasized Christine’s importance as the heroine.

During the kiss, Christine put her hand smack on the Phantom’s deformity and you could see him reach up, wanting to remove her hand, and then not being able to. At this point, Raoul started choking, as if he were dying (I think it was meant to be an effect of the strangulation, not the kiss) and the Phantom had to deliberate a while on what to do with him. When he grabbed the candle and started to slowly advance on Raoul, it was very threatening and Raoul actually made panicked eye contact with Christine, shaking his head violently as if trying to get her to call him off, just before the Phantom “attacked.” It really looked as though the Phantom would kill Raoul at that point, making Raoul’s release an emotional curve ball. Interestingly, when the Phantom, breaking down, went to huddle on the throne and tell them to leave, neither Christine nor Raoul moved an inch. They both stood there, staring at the Phantom. I’ve often seen Christine hesitate, but not Raoul, and these two were clearly not planning on going anywhere. They only left when the Phantom leapt out of the throne on the final “Go now!” and frightened them off. Again, the Phantom’s final moments were much calmer and more resigned than what I’m used to. The ending was sad and bittersweet, rather than heart-wrenching as a result.

Overall, a great show, with superb lighting, sound, and singing. For acting/interpretation, Mr. Yoon wasn’t my favorite pick of the Phantoms I’ve seen, but for singing voice, he’s definitely in the top few. Ms. Choi was all-around excellent, a wonderful Christine, especially if you like the sweet and innocent sort of Christine. Of course, some people don’t, but she was one of my favorites. And I enjoyed the Carlotta extremely. Probably my new favorite. I will say that the whole show had a very well-choreographed feel to it, and although the emotions and actions seemed natural, I didn't really experience any of those raw moments--actors shouting, voices breaking, stumbling, etc.--with the possible exception of Ms. Choi's Christine. This isn't necessarily good or bad, it just is what it is. The production was just spot on in timing and delivery, including the singing voices, which were strong throughout and practically could have been lifted straight off the recording. All in all, not bad for a production I didn’t ever think I’d see! Very Happy

Loettchen

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Re: South Korean Production (오페라의 유령), Daegu, 10/28/10

Post  operafantomet on Tue Nov 23, 2010 4:08 pm

Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful review of a production I can only dream of seeing. I'm so glad you took the time to flesh out details, it was a joy to read.

I want to comment on the Masquerade scene. That's one thing I noticed in Copenhagen too - an ever-present, dangerous undertone. The Phantom is there, he must be, but where? It was the intention of the original team (according to Hal Prince), but sometimes the scene seems rushed, or also just one giant feast where the point is to impress the audience. And then I think something vital is lost. It should be dangerous, threatening, without maybe being able to tell what gives this creepy feeling. Reason why I mentioned Copenhagen is that they had the same feeling there. It was in the small details - in the constant nervousness of Christine, in the mocking and threatening dance routine of the dancers, in the could-be-Phantom doubles, in the monkey girl echoing the monkey musical box in her movements.... So glad to hear the Korean production also kept this nerve.

The chandelier crash also sounds awesome.

And it makes my Phantom heart so happy to hear about your co-workers running out to buy the CD! Very Happy

By the way, I hope you're safe and sound in Korea. Read about some rumbling between north and south. Neutral

_________________
JOSEFINE TO THE PHANTOM:
You come off as... somewhat... rough...

operafantomet

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