Monthly Archives: October 2015

Theater: Blue Square presents ‘In the Heights’

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Seoul’s production of “In the Heights” in the Samsung Card Hall at Blue Square. SCREAMfmLondon

“In the Heights” is a much-acclaimed musical centered on a Dominican-American neighborhood in Washington Heights in New York City. So you might’ve guessed why it’s slightly weird to see this musical put on in Seoul in the Samsung Card Hall at Blue Square.

Seoul’s “In the Heights” production is highly entertaining, of course. The cast even impressively weaves Spanish and English (as well as hip-hop and salsa dancing) into the all-Korean script. The show is executed flawlessly: the singing is superb, the acting is charming and the dancing is lively. All it is lacking is the emotional connection, because so much of the story is deeply connected to the characters’ ethnic backgrounds.

The original Broadway production of “In the Heights” was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won several Tony Awards for his music, lyrics and acting and is currently performing on Broadway as Alexander Hamilton in the hip-hop musical “Hamilton” for which he also wrote the music and lyrics.

“In the Heights” centers on Usnavi, a character born in the Dominican Republic and named after a US Navy ship (one of the first things his parents saw in America). With his comic relief sidekick, Sonny, Usnavi runs a bodega that is frequented by the neighborhood residents.

These include: Benny, the aspiring businessman who works as a dispatcher at the cab company and is the play’s only non-Latino character; Nina, who has returned home for the summer to reveal to her parents that she dropped out of Stanford University; and Vanessa, a hairstylist who dreams of getting an apartment of her own and moving away from the Barrio.

The Seoul production features a rotating group of k-pop stars and actors in the lead roles. The performance I attended saw Infinite’s Jang Dong-woo and Kim Sung-kyu as Usnavi and Benny, Oh So-yeon as Vanessa and Kim Bo-kyung as Nina.

The cast’s talent and passion is unquestionable. The best moments are the musical’s large, ensemble numbers that fully utilize the backup dancers — “Carnaval del Barrio,” “Blackout” and “96,000,” during which the entire neighborhood comes out to fantasize about winning $96,000 in the lottery.

The main cast was, overall, very impressive. So-yeon and Bo-kyung both demonstrated powerful vocals (although Vanessa is an infinitely more interesting character than Nina, who is kind of a drag).

Dongwoo and Sungkyu were incredibly charming in their roles. Dongwoo had great comedic timing and command of the stage, and Sungkyu developed excellent chemistry with his co-stars and was very likeable throughout. It was a pleasure to watch them explore the personalities of their characters. However, this was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fans rush the stage at the end of a musical theater production, like we were about to open up the mosh pit. I was all but clutching my pearls.

It was worth it, though. “In the Heights” is a good show, and although it makes less sense overseas than it would in the US, the Seoul cast and crew have done nice work with the material. I hope we’ll get to see “Hamilton” next!

‘In the Heights’
294 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu
Weekdays at 8 p.m., weekends at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday through November 22
Tickets range from 70,000 – 130,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.interpark.com.

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I tried Korea’s spiciest fire noodle (불닭볶음면) challenge

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I finished the Buldak Bokkeum Myun, but at what cost? SCREAMfmLondon

A while ago, a spicy-noodle-eating challenge became very popular (among competitive eaters and masochists, I can only assume). The challenge pits YouTubers against Korea’s spiciest instant noodles: Samyang Food’s Buldak Bokkeum Myun (which basically translates to “fire chicken stir-fry noodles”). Most people simply call this the Fire Noodle Challenge.

I’m not sure what compelled me to take on the challenge. It was not too long ago that I would break a sweat trying to eat a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But I’ve built up my spice tolerance so much since then! ‘I’m a new person,’ I thought. I would prove how far I’ve come by conquering the Internet’s most feared noodle.

The instant noodles are prepared like most are: you heat the noodles in hot water, then strain out the water, leaving just the dry noodles.

Two packets of seasoning come with the fire noodles. The first is full of sesame seeds and thin strips of seaweed for extra flavor, and the second is full of the dark red, gelatinous, spicy sauce. Mix these ingredients together with your chopsticks and dig in.

At first, the noodles aren’t too spicy. The smoky chicken flavor is clearly present, and the slight zest only adds to it.

At first.

About two bites in, I realized my mistake. I was in over my head. It was extremely fiery. Extremely. I felt like I should have been able to breathe fire if I opened my mouth. I moved my bowl several feet away from me, downed a bottle of water and gave it a few minutes.

After taking a break, I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. The challenge, after all, is to eat the noodles as quickly as possible. Surely, if you eat them fast enough, the spiciness won’t be able to catch you?

So I powered through it. I ate the entire bowl. I did it! That wasn’t so bad. It was kind of delicious…

And then…

I yelled, “Oh, god!” loudly and sprinted into the bathroom, where I ran my entire face under the faucet of cold water. I inhaled water through my nose, and I didn’t even care. Nothing helped ease the pain in my mouth and throat.

It tasted like what I imagine being pepper-sprayed feels like.

Tears streamed down my face as I stood, hunched over and trembling, in the bathroom, greedily scooping tap water into my mouth.

There were a few Very Real moments where I seriously, honestly thought I might have to go to the hospital. Have people died from this? I should have done more research. Was I going to be that one urban legend character that actually perishes after completing the super-spicy noodle challenge? Was that my fate?

It seemed like hours before I regained my composure, but I have, now, made a complete recovery from the fire noodle experience.

I do not actually recommend this challenge to anyone. It is a terrible idea. It is a Very Bad Idea. Please do not do this. Love yourself. Eat things that will not cause you bodily harm. Please. Take it from me: Buldak Bokkeum Myun is great for incapacitating your enemies, but it’s awful for dinner.

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Eat at your own risk. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Angels Heart in Harajuku

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Angels Heart crêpes in Harajuku, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Crêpes are big in Tokyo, and there are about a million crêperies along Takeshita Street, one of Harajuku’s most popular pedestrian-only shopping streets. The foot traffic on Takeshita is so intense that there’s little room for actual movement, so the small restaurants and side streets are essential for a quick escape from the crowds.

Angels Heart is a crêperie located on the corner of one such side street, which provides a nice reprieve from the chaos of the main drag. There was periodically a line, but it went quite quickly.

Angels Heart serves a variety of freshly-made crêpes (both sweet and savory) with your choice of fillings. The girl in front of me definitely ordered some sort of leafy green crêpe filling, but I went with banana, chocolate and cheesecake for around 500 JPY. It was prepared quickly and served wrapped in a sturdy, pink paper cone. The entire side street is lined with people chillin’, eatin’ crêpes, and I was happy to join them.

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Banana, chocolate and cheesecake in one great crêpe. SCREAMfmLondon

The street is on a slight incline, so it provides a good vantage point from which you can do some great people-watching. While I was hanging out, I heard lots of shouting and clanging coming from the main street as several groups of men dressed in short robes pushed their way through the shoppers carrying some sorts of altars on their shoulders. I assume it had something to do with the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsukimi, that was going on around the same time as the lunar eclipse during the last week of September.

But who knows.

At any rate, the crêpe was delicious: the slice of cheesecake was solid, the chocolate syrup was plentiful, the whipped cream was cool while the crêpe itself was warm. What more do you need? Angels Heart is a sweet spot to stop by when you become overwhelmed by the crowds in Harajuku.

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The view of Takeshita Street during Tsukimi 2015. SCREAMfmLondon

PEACEMINUSONE at Seoul Museum of Art

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G-Dragon’s PEACEMINUSONE exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art. Tracy Emin’s neon work appears in the “(NON)Fiction Museum.” SCREAMfmLondon

G-Dragon is a masterful multimedia artist. Not only does he produce some of this generation’s most interesting and cutting-edge pop music as a member of Big Bang and as a solo artist, but he’s also delved into other styles of art. He’s an influential, worldwide fashion icon (he recently collaborated with designer Giuseppe Zanotti to launch a fantastic collection of glitter-covered footwear), and this summer he presented a collaborative, mixed-media exhibition called PEACEMINUSONE at the Seoul Museum of Art.

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Gwon O-sang’s painted sculpture “Untitled G-Dragon, A Space of No Name,” based on Raphael’s “St. Michael Vanquishing Satan,” shows G-Dragon as both St. Michael and Satan. SCREAMfmLondon

The exhibition included G-Dragon’s work alongside pieces from 14 other contemporary artists and teams including Park Hyung-geun and Bang & Lee, whose works ranged from photo illustrations to sculpture installations.

PEACEMINUSONE: Beyond the Stage included a “(NON)Fiction Museum” featuring clothing and accessories G-Dragon designed and wore during memorable performances, furniture from his own collection and other items of inspiration.

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Mannequins from Big Bang’s “Bae Bae” are featured at G-Dragon’s PEACEMINUSONE exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Although evidence of G-Dragon’s pop culture influence was certainly present, it did not overshadow the other artists’ works or GD’s overall vision, which was kind of cerebral. He explained “PEACEMINUSONE” as his vision of the world — the meeting point between peaceful utopia and imperfect reality.