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Usama Cho Seung-woo sweeps Japan

2006/04/05 | 193 views | Permalink | Source

"Jekyll and Hyde", a novel by British writer Robert L. Stevenson, has been highly popular among readers for a long time. Dr. Jekyll, who thought one could separate the instinct of good and evil inherent in humans, injects a substance he formulated into his own body, but ends up transforming himself into a monster due to a side effect. The novel realistically describes the dual nature of man through the portrayal of Dr. Jekyll, who became evil. The story was produced as a movie for the first time in 1931, and has been adapted into various screenplays by many directors ever since.

Jekyll and Hyde, which is enjoying immense popularity as a musical worldwide, has become a hot topic of conversation in Japan lately. One Jekyll and Hyde production spawned massive acclaim from audiences for days after setting a remarkable record of 90 percent ticket sales in its first show at U-Port Theater in Tokyo. Interestingly, it did not feature the original Broadway cast from New York. Instead, all the actors and actresses performing enthusiastically onstage were Koreans. It looked quite strange to see the Japanese audience passionately cheering the actors and actresses who acted and sang in Korean, but it was a moment of overflowing emotion and excitement. Actor Cho Seung-woo is at the center of those who created that memorable moment.

Usama Cho Seung-woo

Jo, known as Usama in Japan, is enjoying massive popularity among Japanese fans. He first began accruing popularity through dramas, then movies, and now musicals. The musical Jekyll and Hyde is spawning yet another wave of Korean pop culture in Japan, with Jo playing the lead character in this latest production.

Jo made his movie debut in the movie "Chunhyang", which was produced by the award-winning director Lim Kwon-taek in 1999. But he did not achieve great popularity for several years afterwards. He however chose to develop his acting skills rather than pursue instant popularity. Thus, he has been cultivating his acting skills through not only movies but also musicals and plays.

Jo wanted to become a career actor rather than an instant star that rises and vanishes in a moment's time. While striving to develop his own personality and style of acting, Jo not only proved his ability in acting but also earned huge popularity by playing the character of Chowon in the movie "Marathon" (2005). For this reason, many people would recall Chowon whenever they saw Jo. But those who watched the musical Jekyll and Hyde instantly recall Hyde instead, who cried out in emotional scenes onstage in the musical.

The musical Jekyll and Hyde was performed at local theaters twice last year for a total production cost of 3.5 billion won, and achieved sales of 4.4 billion won, both records in the local musical community. The musical was a phenomenal success. All the tickets for the shows featuring Jo's performance onstage were always sold out. His superb singing ability and unique ways of expressing emotion deeply impressed all audiences.

There is no need to speak further of Jo's great acting and singing since Frank Wildhone, the composer of Jekyll and Hyde, reportedly gave Jo the highest praise for his superb performance during Wildhone's visit to Seoul for a musical concert. Jo continued to receive such unrestrained acclaim in Japan as well. His acting and singing profoundly impressed Japanese fans, with the spectators of his show typically giving him a standing ovation.

Cho Seung-woo, actor aiming for world stage

It would be natural for spectators, who most often recall the Chowon character in "Marathon", to feel some doubt before watching Jo perform in the musical Jekyll and Hyde. But in reality, they don't feel let down at all when watching the musical. Jo's uncanny acting ability transforms him from the awkward Chowon, who would shout out "my legs are worth a million dollars", into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a merciless killer, in his latest musical.

Jo will never forget these two works which widely publicized him to audiences in 2004 and 2005. "Jekyll and Hyde" and "Marathon" together granted him the best actor award at the 10th Korea Musical Awards, the most popular actor award at the 28th Golden Filming Award by the Korean Society of Cinematographers, the best actor award at the 41st Baeksang Arts Awards, and the best actor award at the 42nd Daejong Films Festival, while making him one of the top actors in the nation.

Enjoying enormous popularity as arguably the biggest box-office draw in the Korean movie industry these days, Jo is next scheduled to meet with spectators in France in April. "Marathon" was picked as the best movie selected by young spectators during the 'ASIE EXPO' held in Lyon, France. The movie, which effectively made his name widely known, won awards in two categories at the expo, and will officially be released in Paris. He once went to the Cannes Films Festival with the movie Chunghyang when he was only 20 years old. It is unlikely to be long before the Cannes starts paying keen attention to this rising young star.

Man with a charming smile

A survey by a university hospital plastic surgeon found Jo's facial look is the closest to the image that is the most admired by Koreans in terms of masculine appearance. Jo's facial outline almost completely matches the ideal facial structure that is most preferred by Koreans. Jo may not be exceptionally good looking, but spectators and fans think of their close friends and relatives when seeing him with his friendly smile. His friendly and open facial appearance makes him the actor who is most sought after for casting in movies by directors and producers in Chungmuro, the mecca of Korea's movie industry. Now enjoying immense popularity, Jo chose to play the "most innocent man on earth" as his latest movie role. In the film, he co-stars with actress Kang Hye-jung, who he confessed to be his real-life girlfriend, which generated great public attention. Jo plays the character of an innocent young man who loves one particular woman throughout his entire life. Attention is now focused on how he will play the new role in his new movie, as he continues to develop himself as an actor.

Date of birth: February 12, 1980
Education: Play and movie department, Dankook University
Debut: Movie "Chunhyang" in 1999
2002 Rookie actor of the year at the Best Musical Awards
2002 Best actor award at the 10th Korea Musical Awards,
2005 Popular star award at the 26th Blue Dragon Films Awards
2005 Best actor award at the 42nd Daejong Films Festival
2005 Best actor award at the 14th Geymgye Baekhwa Films Festival

Other works: Musical "Jekyll and Hyde", "Carmen", and "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers".

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