By Chung Ah-young
Musical actress Kim So-hyun and actor Won Ki-joon
play Janggum and her love, Min Jung-ho, in the musical. Several actors and actresses will take turns to play the roles of Jang-gum and Min Jung-ho
A 54-episode drama that has contributed to boosting the Korean Wave, or hallyu, in Asian countries, starring actress Lee Young-ae
, is being revived as a homegrown blockbuster musical.
"The Great Jang-geum", a musical version of the hit soap opera "Jewel in the Palace" ("Dae Jang Geum
") that aired on MBC four years ago will be staged at the Seoul Arts Center in May.
It has a 40-member lineup and some six billion won has been spent to convert the long epic series into a two-and-a-half-hour musical gala. "Jewel in the Palace" ("Dae Jang Geum
") has been broadcast in more than 50 countries.
The musical's producer is PMC Production, known for the flagship nonverbal performance show "Nanta" (Cookin') revolving around chefs. "Nanta" has been performed in many countries.
The production company is aiming once again at overseas markets.
"I hope this musical, a blockbuster work that takes place on a large stage, will contribute to maintaining the explosive boom of the musical market", Song Seung-whan, head of PMC Production, said during a showcase at the Westin Chosun Hotel in central Seoul on Monday.
Song said that the local musical market is booming like never before but most Korean musicals are performed only in small theaters.
He said, "I will make the best use of the drama's reputation alongside my know-how, which made Nanta successful in other countries, to put the musical onto the world's stages".
"Things have changed from 10 years ago when I took the non-verbal performance as our flagship show targeting overseas markets because of the language barriers", he said.
"But we don't have to worry about this musical, as the drama has enjoyed popularity in many countries. Many Northeast Asian countries are accustomed to seeing foreign musicals with the translations", he added.
The story revolves around Seo Jang-geum, the first legendary woman of the Choson Kingdom who became the supreme royal physician.
Despite her low-social status in the male dominated society, Jang-geum overcame social discrimination and landed a job as a royal cook, later becoming a royal physician and becoming the physician in charge of the king.
The drama captured the hearts of its many viewers with the story of Jang-geum's dramatic life _ the rise and fall of her career and her love story.
The musical version will put more emphasis on Jang-geum and the love story centering on her, according to Han Jin-sop, the director of the musical.
"In the musical, a variety of court cuisines, which were essential in the drama, will be expressed with Korean sounds and rhythms, along with Korean-style visual effects such as colors, stage setting, costumes and lighting", Han said.
Song said that there are two things that make the musical competitive in the world market: its universal theme and its Korean traditional content.
"The art of medicine and cooking will be enjoyable in other countries", Song said.
He said that the company is considering licensing to be exported to other countries.
People from a Chinese theater, a Japanese broadcaster and a Singaporean stage company took part in the showcase.
Song said that many foreign producers are interested in the musical.
During the showcase, actors and actresses clad in Korean traditional costumes performed songs.
For the Jang-geum role, three actresses _ Kim So-hyun, Ahn Yu-jin and Choi Bo-young _ have been cast.
Actors Won Ki-joon
, who is enjoying popularity for his current role in "Prince of the Legend" (Jumong
), and Kim Woo-hyeong, starring as Chad in "All Shook Up", will play Min Jung-ho, who is in love with Jang-geum.
Veteran actress Lee Tae-won, who starred as Queen Min in "The Last Empress", will return to play as a court lady.
Lee plays a villainous and ambitious court woman who seeks Jang-geum's downfall.
"I found my character very attractive though she was infamous, and people didn't like her in the drama version. I am very excited to play a villain to refresh my musical career", Lee said.
The musical will be performed in Seoul Arts Center Opera House from May 26 to June 16.