From left, Shin Chun-soo, head of the OD Musical Company, actors Lee Seok-jun, Ye Ji-won, Seo Bum-seok and director Yang Jung-ung pose after a press event for the new play “Midsummer” at KT Olleh Square in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap
By Chung Ah-young
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the OD Musical Company and to celebrate the occasion the company has chosen to go back to the basics by presenting theatrical stage works rather than extravagant and commercial musicals.
Surviving the recycling boom and bust of a shaky industry during the past decade, the OD Musical Company had transformed the local musical industry into an attractive market in the world through its landmark production of “Dreamgirls.” The 2009 production of the popular musical with the state-of-the-art LED panels succeeded in its world premiere in collaboration with the United States.
The first of the commemorative series, “Midsummer” is a “play with songs” written by David Greig and composed by Gordon Macintyre, and stars veteran actress Ye Ji-won and musical sensations Seo Bum-seok and Lee Seok-jun in the upcoming Korean version.
The play will be directed by Yang Jung-ung who is renowned for imbuing Shakespeare’s work “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with a Korean sentiment and has received rave reviews from international stages.
“I looked back on the past 10 years and found I have been going forward without examining the way my company has progressed. Also, OD is known as a large-scale musical production company. But while I am producing these commercial musicals, I always have a special attachment to plays and basic theater. Through small-scale productions, I want to shed light on the essence of the theater so that it can gradually become a better company,” Shin Chun-soo, producer and head of the company, said in a press conference.
The drama is a romantic comedy revolving around a woman and a man — Helena and Bob — who meet in a wine bar one night and fall in love but get involved in more complicated dramatic incidents. Ye will play Helena while Lee and Seo will alternate the role of Bob.
“I am returning to the stage 10 years after I performed in the premiere of the ‘Vagina Monologues’ in 2001. I am very glad and excited to be back,” said Ye. “I will portray Helena, who seems perfect but suffers solitude, as a woman with an innocent mind who chases after pure love. I love my role that resembles each of us in these modern days.”
The play includes six songs such as “Love Will Break Your Heart” and “There Are Only Inches Between Us” but focuses on the dialogue that clearly depicts the dramatic tension and portrays the emotional expressions and varying feelings of the protagonists.
The show is a unique form that includes songs in the play but it’s different from musicals. Instead of delivering the characters’ dialogues through song lyrics as part of acting the roles, the play’s songs are used as background music which just enriches the drama.
The director said that even though the drama is set in Edinburgh, the characters reflect common traits of contemporary youngsters such as a woman living in southern Seoul and a man in northern Seoul oozing with Korean sentiment.
“When I talked to the playwright, he agreed to some changes in the Korean adaptation. But I don’t want to change the original text because it is very well plotted. So I just want to put a Korean spin in the dialogue while keeping other elements and the plot intact,” said Yang.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which is Yang’s representative work with his unique theatrical style, the play depicts hopeful messages with fantastic touches surrounding the events unfolding during one night.
“This work is also important in communicating with the audience. We actors will interact with the audience during the show. The play asks questions to all of us and portrays the process of how we find it,” Lee said.
“The play is a romantic comedy accompanied with songs, but take a look closer, it is a serious work that tells of the agonies of young people these days with an all-embracing theme,” the director said.
The actors will take on many roles such as narrator or player and play guitars and sing songs translated into Korean.
After “Midsummer,” the company will present “The Story of My Life” and “The Blue Room” at small theaters as part of the anniversary series.
The company has produced 75 musicals and plays, worked with more than 4,000 staff members and actors, and won 28 major musical awards over the last 10 years.
“Midsummer” will be on stage from April 29 to June 12 at the Jayu Theater of the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. For more information, call 1588-5212.