‘Les Miserables’ comes to Korea, at last
Chung Sung-hwa to play Valjean
By Kwon Mee-yoo
With plans to raise the curtain in November, “Les Miserables” unveiled its Korean cast Monday.
There have been a few productions before, but it is the first-ever licensed Korean version of the legendary musical.
Chung Myung-kun, president of KCMI, said he has been preparing for the Korean production since he organized a touring production of “Les Miserables” in Korea in 2002.
The musical revolves around the well-known story of Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, and how he changed through the kindness and generosity he experienced amid the French Revolution.
The Korean rendition of the show will be directed as the 25th Anniversary touring production, which began in 2010. Director Laurence Connor, set designer Matt Kinley and lighting designer Paule Constable will visit Korea to head the production.
KCMI emphasized the seven-month-long auditioning process taken to find the right actors for the musical. The company said the original producer Cameron Mackintosh reviewed video clips of each candidate and handpicked the cast.
Chung Sung-hwa was chosen for the lead role of Valjean in Korea. Chung began his career as a comedian in 1994, but his life took a dramatic turn when he was cast to play the role of Don Quixote in the Broadway-bound musical “Man of La Mancha” in 2007. He then showed his talent in roles such as independence activist Ahn Jung-geun in “Hero,” King Arthur in “Spamalot” and most recently, drag queen Albin in “La Cage aux Folles.” His ability to take on diverse roles proves that he is capable of portraying the intense passion of Valjean as well as the seedy aspects of his life.
“I am not ashamed that I started as a comedian, and I will show what a comedian-turned-musical actor can offer onstage,” Chung said.
Moon Jong-won, who played Zoser in “Aida” and Ramon in “Zorro,” will play Javert, the relentless policeman chasing Valjean throughout his life. “I have been playing villains for several years and Javert is going to be the climax of such an evil career,” Moon said. “I’m glad that I look cruel and cold-hearted.”
Fantine, the tragic woman who lives a difficult life working in a factory, will be performed by Cho Jung-eun. “I thought I wouldn’t make it since there were so many competitors in the audition. I emptied my mind and it helped me go through the audition rather calmly,” she said.
Cho currently plays Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha” and her previous roles include Emma in “Jekyll and Hyde” and Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Veteran actor Im Choon-gil will play Thenardier and Park Jun-myun will play his counterpart Madame Thenardier.
Jo Sang-woong, who was trained at the Japanese theater company Shiki, took the role of Marius, the young man who falls in love with Fantine’s daughter Cosette. Cosette will be played by 20-year-old Lee Ji-soo, who went through more than 10 stages in the audition and is making her stage debut in the musical.
Kim Woo-hyung, known for acting the Janus-faced scientist in “Jekyll and Hyde,” will perform the role of Enjolas and Park Ji-yeon, who played Sophie in “Mamma Mia!” will play Eponine, the plucky young woman who loves Marius.
All nine primary actors said during the press conference that they had one thing in common — being a part of the cast of “Les Miserables” was a dream come true. Some said they still can’t believe that they are a part of the cast, while others said they are so grateful.
“Actors, the crew and fans of ‘Les Miserables’ have waited a long time and we are about to achieve the dream,” Kim playing Enjolas said.
Premiered in London in 1985, “Les Miserables” drew more than 60 million audiences across the globe in some 300 cities in 43 countries. Claude-Michel Schonberg wrote music to the musical based on French author Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name and numbers such as “I Dreamed a Dream” and “One Day More” have been extremely successful tracks on their own.
“Les Miserables” will begin with a preview on Nov. 3 and open on Nov. 16 at Poeun Art Hall in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The production will then move to Keimyung Art Center in Daegu (Dec. 8-Jan. 19, 2013) and Sohyang Art Center in Busan (Feb. 14-March 10, 2013) to finally perform in Seoul at Blue Square on April 9, 2013.
For more information, visit www.lesmis.co.kr.