The first Korean production of the musical “Miss Saigon” was a hit when it premiered in 2006 with more than 85 percent of seats sold. Confident that the show could repeat its successful run, another Korean production of the musical was staged here earlier this year. This time, however, ticket sales were at only 55 percent.
“The Phantom of the Opera” was one of the best-selling musicals here until May, but sales are less than stellar these days.
Korean productions of hit musicals have drawn audiences and re-shaped the landscape of the theater scene in recent years. But the industry that has proven so lucrative for the industry as a whole is experiencing a shift toward a new phenomena that critics say could change things – for better or for worse. While theater critics say recent productions are higher in quality than in the past, sluggish ticket sales in recent months have led the industry to refer to its current situation as musical theater’s “ice age.”
In the midst of the public’s indifference, the only performances that have been able to attract audiences are the ones that have members of Korea’s idol groups as part of their casts.
The musical “Mozart,” which stars Xiah Jun-su, a member of the disbanded group TVXQ, recorded average ticket sales of 99 percent when he was in the role. That figure dropped to just 74 percent when another actor was in the leading role. Similarly, the Korean production of “Legally Blonde” had its own idol star in Girls’ Generation member Jessica. Ticket sales surged to 90 percent when Jessica, who rotated the role with two other actresses, was on the boards, but plummeted to just 70 percent when she was not.
The most recent example of this phenomenon is the production of “Midnight Sun,” which also featured a member of Girls’ Generation, Taeyeon. Sales soared to a whopping 98 percent when she was on stage but fell to 78 percent when someone else was in the role.
“The Korean public tends to be stingy when it comes to paying their own money for cultural events,” pop culture critic Sung Gi-wan said. “The only ones who are willing to do that are fans who want to watch their favorite stars.”
The current trend is not the result of bad acting or a dearth of good musicals, critics say. Instead, it appears to be the simple fact that casting popular singers attracts fans and publicity. “A Chorus Line,” which opened last weekend, has Jung-ah, a member of girl group After School, and Soo-hyun, a member of U-Kiss, in the cast. The producers revealed that they did not want to cast celebrities because of their busy schedules but investors refused to support the production if the stars were not part of it.
“The public is sick of the surge of large-scale musicals from overseas that have arrived since 2001,” theater critic Cho Yong-sin said. “Musicals in the U.S. were also reliant on Hollywood stars until well-crafted musicals were made. If we can create pieces that are moving as well as original, we may be able to remove the idols from the stage.”
By Choi Min-woo [email@example.com]
Three members of boy band TVXQ, namely Hero Jaejoong, Micky Yoochun and Xiah Junsu, have filed a lawsuit worth three billion won, equivalent to nearly 2.5 million dollars, against major talenthouse SM Entertainment.
According to the Seoul Central District Court on Monday, the three singers brought suit against SM, demanding that they be confirmed their 13-year exclusive contract with the agency had been nullified, along with one billion won each, part of their share of profits they claim to have failed to receive.
The three had applied for provisional disposition of their contract with SM last July, saying it was too long and unfair, to which the court ruled in partial favor of, stating that SM cannot interfere with their individual activities.
This led to a halt of their activities as a five-man band in Korea and a few months later in Japan. The three then formed a separate group, signing with Japanese agency AVEX, through which they declared they would pursue their singing careers.
After giving a series of sold-out concerts in Japan just two weeks ago which they held to “express gratitude to fans,” the new trio have been gearing up for their debut which is set to be produced by prominent U.S. musicians Kanye West and Timbaland.
Meanwhile, SM too had sued the three singers in mid-April in a suit worth 2.2 billion won for the damages the agency and the remaining two members, U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin, have suffered from the legal battle.
Since their 2004 debut, TVXQ, discovered and managed by SM, had arguably been one of the most successful K-pop acts in Asia with reportedly the largest fanbase in the world.
Enjoying great success in the Japanese music industry in particular, they became the first foreign artist to top the Oricon singles charts six times and placed their single and album simultaneously within the top three slots of Oricon’s singles and albums chart, the first time for a foreign artist to do so in 15 years.
On Music Station’s May 28th broadcast, it has been announced that Arashi, AKB48, Meisa Kuroki, XIAH Junsu and JUJU will be filling up the guest lineup. XIAH Junsu, from popular group Tohoshinki will be performing as a solo artist for the first time in the program.
performance list (in alphabetical order)
Arashi – MONSTER
AKB48 – Ponytail to Shou Shou
Meisa Kuroki – 5-FIVE
XIAH Junsu – Intoxication
JUJU – Trust in You
TVXQ member Xiah Junsu’s twin brother Zuno has unveiled a teaser video for his debut single “Nothing to Lose”, according to agency BIAS on Tuesday.
BIAS explained in a press release that a 33-second teaser video, which contains footage from the music video to “Lose”, has been posted on the agency’s official homepage (www.biasent.com) and popular video sharing site Youtube. “You will be able to see much more of his charms in the music video,” an official at BIAS was quoted as saying, adding that a full version of the video will be revealed at Zuno’s showcase, to be held at Beijing Chaoyang Gymnasium on March 28.
The teaser video, which has received over 10,000 hits on Youtube as of Tuesday morning, shows the singer tied up in tape with words such as betrayal, anger, agony, tears and disappointment written on it.
The story is about a man who is in pain after a woman he loves leaves him. Zuno, whose real name is Kim Junho, first drew attention for his talent and potential as an entertainer in November 2008 after appearing on MBC’s celebrity dating show “Introducing the Friend of a Famous Star” with his K-pop idol sibling Junsu.
His debut single will be released simultaneously in Korea and China on March 29.
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