08-22-2007 16:31
Mega-Hit Film `King and the Clown Is Reborn as Traditional Musical

A scene from musical, ¡°The King¡¯s Jester-Gonggil¡± to be put on stage at Chungmu Art Hall in Seoul on Sept. 15-30 / Courtesy of Seoul Performing Arts Company
By Chung Ah-young
Staff Reporter

Is failure really but a stepping-stone to success? After the previous attempt to make a musical version of the mega-hit film, ``King and the Clown'' flopped last year, a whole new line-up, including staff and actors, is set to revive the musical once again.

The musical version of the film based on the play ``Yi'' was even discredited as ``the musical that audiences demanded refunds" last year.

In hopes of leaving the past behind, the title was revamped from ``Yi" to ``The King's Jester-Gonggil.''

The upgraded version of the musical, which is to be staged on Sept. 15-30 at Chungmu Art Hall in Seoul, will be reborn in a Korean traditional theatrical format adopting ``madangnori,'' a traditional outdoor performance in which audience-actor interactions are crucial.

Veteran playwright and director Lee Yoon-taek, renowned for his play, ``Ogu: The Ritual of Death,'' is the art director.

``Forget about the previous musical. You will not find any similarities between the new production and the previous one,'' Lee told reporters during its showcase on Tuesday.

Veteran playwright and director Lee Yoon-taek talks to reporters during the showcase of the musical, ¡°The King¡¯s Jester-Gonggil.¡± / Yonhap
Lee said that the new production would be faithful to the original play. ``I think the previous musical version failed because Kim Tae-woong, writer of the original play and the film, was obsessed with the spectacle aspect of the musical, rather than the advantages of the traditional dramatic virtues,'' Lee said.

He believes the play itself has the textured composition that other pieces lack. Lee has decided to keep the original context in tact and instead include more songs in the piece to garner more emotions rather than straightforward explanations.

Lee said that the musical is not historical although its background is based on historical figures such as Yonsan, a tyrant king during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

The story revolves around Yonsan and his favorite court jester, Gonggil, with the addition of fictionalized accounts and characters, such as the clown leader Jangsaeng.

``The musical solely focuses on the love story between Gonggil, the king's favorite court jester, and Jangsaeng, a clown leader. The piece reveals the love shared between the two men and through the love story, it questions the meaning of a jester's life,'' he said.

Ultimately, the musical's success lies with the actors' ability to communicate with audiences, as was done in madangnori.

Lee said that the musical's hero is Gonggil, and his love for Jangsaeng is its underpinning theme. ``I am sure that the musical will be one of the most traditional pieces among the latest homegrown ones. The musical will be a more advanced version of madangnori in which the actors will sing in a similar singing style to that of Na Hun-ah, a popular trot(Korean version of Country and Western) singer,'' he said.

Lee said that one of the distinctive aspects transferred from the previous version of the musical is the adoption of ``sohakjihi,'' or court jesters' satire on bribery and scandal. ``Sohakjihi,'' which are small plays of improvised comic conversations performed in front of the king, should be entertaining for the audience.

The new version was successful in the recent try-out performance in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province last month. After the performance in Seoul, the musical is also slated to perform at Tianqiao Theater in Beijing, China in Dec. 15-16 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Korea-China relation.

It will be the first of its kind to officially make a way into Chinese markets as a Korean homegrown performance, according to the producers of the musical, Seoul Performing Arts Company.

Jeong Jae-wal, president of the company, said that the musical is expected to become the signature performance of the company.

The original play's film version drew more than 10 million earlier last year by satirizing social class through the tyrannical ruler's affection for a clown, who holds the lowest rank in society. The three versions provide different viewpoints that enable those in the audience to enjoy the original piece.

Both the film and the musical were originally based on the play, ``Yi,'' which was first staged in 2000.