September 15, 2020
Recently, we polled our Twitter followers to ask which talented star we should see in “Mozart!” the musical during its 10th anniversary run in Korea. In an almost unanimous response, our readers overwhelmingly chose for us to attend a night during which JYJ‘s Kim Junsu would be performing. As such, the following is our staff’s review of this special night and wonderful musical. I arrived for the 3:00 p.m. matinee showing of “Mozart!” Rain was in the forecast for the entire day, but that didn’t stop the eager patrons of the theater. I am impressed with the Sejong Performing Arts Center’s expansive building and structure. It looks like a combination of the Pantheon in Rome and traditional Korean buildings of note. The Interior The interior was lit with warm lighting and featured sandy marble columns, gold embellishments, and red velvet curtains. I had a bit of time to spare before the show, so I went to the cafe at the first floor. If you ever do see a show here, the snacks at the cafe were surprisingly good! Once satisfied, I headed up to my seat. As required for all public places in Korea at this time, strict COVID-19 prevention measures were in place here. All were required to wear a mask, and patrons would be politely reprimanded if staff saw a mask not being worn. There was also a survey that would assist in the contact tracing program here, as well as use of sanitizer and a temperature check. I was all clear, so I went onward to my seat.
The main hall of the center can hold an audience capacity of 3,000. My seat was on the second floor, but just looking over the auditorium’s vast space was amazing. As my eyes trailed to the golden lit proscenium stage hidden by more red velvet curtains, the sight of the large and impressive pipe organ surprised me. It was truly magnificent, and this particular pipe organ is known to be one of the largest in Asia.
The Musical “Mozart!”, created by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay, is originally an Austrian musical that has been adapted and licensed to several countries around the world. Performances in Korea began in 2010. The story is about the famous classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It talks about his life growing up, his family and friends, and alludes to the mystery surrounding his early death.
The Cast The main cast for the show I attended was comprised of Kim Junsu as Mozart, Sophie Kim as Constanze Weber, Son Jun Ho as Hieronymus Colloredo, Hong Kyong Soo as Leopold Mozart, Shin Young Sook as Baron von Waldstatten, and Bae Da Hae as Nannerl Mozart.
The Story The show itself was spectacular, opening with a glimpse of Mozart’s young life under the strict tutelage of his father, Leopold Mozart. The narrative and the performers do well in portraying the close bond Mozart had with his older sister, Nannerl, as well as his strained relationship with his father. With raucous applause, an older Mozart appears. From then on, the story is told from his point of view, while the ghost of the child Mozart follows him everywhere he goes. It’s amazing symbolism. Mozart is haunted by his own musical and ever-demanding genius with expectations to be great due to his profound fame as a child prodigy. Meanwhile, he faces the pressure to be loved and accepted by his father as his son and not as a musical genius.
If one is not familiar with his voice and singing style, Kim Junsu has a rather youthful, powerful, and edgy voice with a distinct raspiness while maintaining strength and clarity. It is perfectly suited for the blossoming adult character he plays for the majority of the performance. His performance is engrossing as you experience the ups and downs in Mozart’s life. When he is jovial, I wanted to smile and laugh at his jester-like playfulness. When he laments and experiences heartbreak, I wanted to weep with him. Sophie Kim’s range was also impressive, and she sang with sultry confidence. Bae Da Hae and Shin Young Sook were some of my favorite singers of the night, in addition to Kim Junsu. I was blown away by their soulful, yet crystal clear, beautiful voices. Both Son Jun Ho and Hong Kyong Soo were powerful, booming baritones that added a richness and maturity to their characters.
In addition to the talent, there are other aspects of the show that must be mentioned. For one, the overall mise-en-scène; lighting, costumes, and stage design were phenomenal and were key pieces to the storytelling. I appreciated the clever color scheme pitting red against green. The use of green represented Colloredo, the antagonist of musical, and the red represented Mozart. In one climactic scene, during a heated confrontation between the two, the two colors were extremely prominent. In the beginning of the argument, the colors were shown on their representative characters. However, at the end, the lighting switched and the lights on them were still their color, but their shadows’ coloring was switched. Therefore, Mozart’s shadow was green, and Colloredo’s shadow was red. It was fascinating to witness. In regard to creative liberty, I found the costuming choices to be amusing and playful as a multitude of pieces consisted of utilizing modern fabrics and patterns. This is especially the case with the creative choice for Mozart to appear in what is now an iconic red jacket, white blouse, and blue jeans… yes, blue jeans. At one point, Constanze was wearing a striking black and white striped gown with flashes of statement red. It was slightly reminiscent of a black widow. It was an interesting contrast to the abundance of Rococo style attire that would be appropriate for that time period among the wealthy class. At the end of the show, the curtain call was joyous, and the whole cast received a well-deserved applause. My hope would have been that they continue to enjoy the world of Mozart they brought forth to our time. However, on August 19th, EMK Musical Company announced that due to the recent increase of COVID-19 cases in Seoul, Mozart’s last performance would be held on August 20th. Before Mozart’s 10th anniversary run was cut untimely short, much like Mozart’s own life, thousands of people came to experience the beauty and tragedy surrounding the legacy of one of the world’s greatest composers. Overall, the musical and the performances contained therein were all well worth watching. So, if you ever have the chance to see this musical yourself, it would be worth your time and money!