Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Heartwarming musicals, ballets for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and local theaters await with fabulous line-up from the glamorous “Evita” and “Mamma Mia!” to fun-packed “Zorro” and “200-Pound Beauty.”

Among these blockbusters, two small musicals “While You Were Sleeping” and “Story of My Life” are ready to warm audiences’ hearts.

“While You Were Sleeping” is a homegrown musical written by Jang Yu-jeong, playwright and director of “Finding Kim Jong-uk” and movie version of the show “Finding Mr. Destiny.” The musical premiered in 2005 and celebrated its 2,000th performance in September.

The musical describes what happened on Christmas Eve at a Catholic charity hospital in a remote area. Father Peter, new director of the hospital, applied for a television community chest show to raise donations to support the tight budget.

However, Choi Byeong-ho, a hemiplegic patient who was going to be interviewed for the program, mysteriously disappears just one night before its recording. In panic, Father Peter presses two patients sharing ward 602 with Choi, Lee Gil-rye and Jeong Suk-ja, and their doctor Lee, but they all deny any connection to the disappearance and instead tell their stories to the priest.

Father Peter later finds out a volunteer student who cleaned the ward is also missing and tries to uncover the relationship between them.

“While You Were Sleeping” is full of interaction with its audience, as the actors deliver letters and gifts to seats.

The musical is staged at two theaters in Seoul simultaneously _ Art Madang in Daehangno and CGV Pop Art Hall in Times Square in Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, on an open-ended run. Tickets cost 40,000 to 60,000 won. For more information, call 1577-3363.

Recollecting friendship

“Story of My Life” tells the story of two childhood friends, how they became friends and then drift apart and what they mean to each other. With music by Neil Bartram and script by Brian Hill, the two-man show brings the memory of friendship to a set full of bookshelves.

Thomas Weaver, a writer with four best seller books, struggles as he tries to compose a eulogy for his lifelong friend Alvin Kelby. His memories take him back to the friendship with Alvin, whom he first met at a Halloween party at the age of seven. Thomas went as Clarence, the angel from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," while Alvin wore a pink shower gown and hair rollers, dressing up as his dead mother. They become friends and make a promise that whoever lives longer one would write the eulogy for the one who passes first.

As they grow up, Alvin takes over his father's bookstore Writer's Block and remains in their hometown, while Thomas leaves for university, dates a woman and writes hit novels. Their friendship continues through playful yet touching songs onstage.

The musical runs through April 29 at Art One Theater in Daehangno, central Seoul. Tickets cost from 40,000 to 60,000 won. For more information, call 1588-5212.

Thrice the merrier with ‘The Nutcracker’

It’s that time of the year again when nutcrackers come to life to the music of Tchaikovsky and lead children to a land of snow and candies. The country’s three top ballet companies will once again stage “The Nutcracker,” but fans will be able to choose among the different spins each troupe will give the seasonal classic, and moreover, new faces on center stage.

The Korea National Ballet Company (KNBC) will star three young ballerinos, while the two emerging ballerinas will debut as Clara with the Universal Ballet Company (UBC) and Seoul Ballet Theatre has invited the musical “Billy Elliot” star Im Sun-woo.

KNBC will offer Yuri Grigorovich’s Bolshoi version of “The Nutcracker.” As usual a little girl named Maria, rather than Clara, is surprised to see her toy nutcracker come to life and eventually turn into a prince, with whom she travels to the Land of Sweets.

This year a child dancer will play the nutcracker while new faces will share the role of the prince. Ballerinos Yoon Jeon-il, 24; Kim Ki-wan, 22; and Lee Jae-wu, 20, are all making their debut as the lead of a full-length ballet production.

This piece features considerable amount of more dance sequences than other versions, such as mime. The pas-de-deux in the second act, to a background of spectacular military procession, is also a spectacle not to be missed.

The performance is being staged at Seoul Arts Center beginning tonight through Dec. 25. Tickets cost from 5,000 won to 90,000 won. Call (02) 580-1300.

UBC will present Marius Petipa’s Mariinsky version of the two-act ballet, which is loved around the world for its free-spirited dance sequences that pays much heed to detail and for grand, festive decorations and sets. Ballerinas Han Sang-yi, 25, and Kim Chae-lee, 20, will share the role of Clara.

UBC’s “The Nutcracker” will be offered from Dec. 21 to 31 at the Seoul Universal Art Center. All tickets cost 10,000 won. Call (070) 7124-1739.

The Seoul Ballet Theatre will showcase James Jeon’s original interpretation of the classic. This version is unique in that it features Korean traditional artists in the dance procession for Clara’s wedding. Also, Mother Ginger wears a Joseon-era queen’s costume rather than a Western-style dress in the second act. Musical fans can also look forward to Im’s role as the mischievous Fritz.

This version will be presented from Dec. 29 to 31 at Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Complex, Gyeonggi Province. Tickets cost from 30,000 won to 70,000 won. Call (02) 3442-2637.

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