As the film industry is, and probably always will be, the musical industry has become a huge magnet for young wannabe entertainers. From K-pop stars such as Ok Koo-hyun ("Aida") and Kim Tae-woo
("Altar Boyz") to film and television actors like Kim Jung-hwa
("Mitbadageseo"), increasing numbers of star entertainers are seeking to boast their versatility through the genre.
Thanks largely to their popularity, musical dramas starring them have always been successes. It, however, doesn't mean that everyone involved is happy, nor is it good for the industry in the long run.
"Musical dramas need their own specialized talent", Nam Kyeong-joo, 41, one of the biggest musical stars who has dedicated nearly all of his entire career to the genre, said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald. "Being a musical actor takes more than decent singing skills, which means singing, dancing and acting should all be in harmony".
Nam said that he isn't totally against the idea of featuring star entertainers in musical dramas. "There's nothing wrong with that if they work with the right material. It would be fine if (K-pop star) Rain
acts in a pop musical, but imagine that he is playing the phantom or Raul (in 'The Phantom of the Opera')", said Nam. Currently the musical industry seems to be in its heyday, staging more new works, attracting a galaxy of young musical stars as well as drawing a growing number of audiences. Nam's presence, however, is still so much a part of the genre's unprecedented popularity. He runs Nam Musical Academy, a talent institute specializing in musicals in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, together with his brother.
From October 2004 until May 7, Nam acted in "I Love You, You are Perfect, Now Change", a Romantic Comedy
with an Off-Broadway origin. Out of 520 performances, he did 518, the most performances in a single run of a musical drama for him and the local musical industry.
At that time, tickets were almost sold out, with more than 250,000 people visiting the 150-seat Yonkang Hall in downtown Seoul, a far greater turnout than he had ever expected. "In the beginning, I thought I would do it for about two to three months at best, but the reactions from the audience during its premier were explosive. So I started to prepare myself for a longer run", he said.
The musical is a patchwork of 20 independent episodes, which are all put together under the theme of "love and marriage". During the show, he turns himself so seamlessly into 15 different characters, which not only the audience but also he himself finds very exciting. "I like the musical because it never goes stale. It definitely is among the three best works I've ever performed".
From May 30 until June 18, he plays the 15 characters once again at Chungmu Art Hall in downtown Seoul. "This one is not mildly funny but hilarious, drawing laughter for most of the running time. And truly such a reaction reinforces my energy on the stage, which is another reason why I could do the show for such a long time", the actor said.
Nam married a TV reporter last summer, when he was fully involved in the musical. As a one-track-minded musical actor, he confesses that even marriage has given him a new insight into the world of musical acting. "And the musical is about marriage and love, you know. I think to myself 'could I perform the musical without being married?'"
After the end of the musical, he plans to see other performances, meeting friends and, more than anything else, spending more time with his wife. "As an actor, the happiest thing that can ever happen to me will be remembered by many people through a work fitting me the best. 'I Love You' is such a work".
Tickets for "I Love You" are 20,000 won to 45,000 won. For more information, call (02) 501-7888.
By Lee Yong-sung