Tag Archives: jang dongwoo

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 performed at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival

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Infinite closes out the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival with a performance of their recent single, “Bad.” SCREAMfmLondon

I hear the roaring applause of thousands of k-pop fans as I’m nailing every moment of my chicken-inspired choreography. I land my final jumps, and the crowd goes wild. Then, I have to hurry off the stage because world-renowned pop superstar Psy is up next.

That’s (basically) (more or less) how it went down when I performed as a backup dancer for Korean comedian Kim Young-chul’s set at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival on Aug. 4. The four-hour concert boasted performances from artists such as GOT7, Infinite, T-ara, Crayon Pop and Psy.

And me, of course.

SM Entertainment, sign me up

The adventure began around 7 p.m. the night before the concert, when the dancers were all herded en masse through several crowded subway transfers until we reached our stage at Seoul City Hall.

At the venue, we were quickly taught the moves and positioned onstage, where we ran the dance until 9 p.m. We had no idea what song we were dancing to until the next day, but, boy, were we dancing. We danced and danced, were given disapproving looks, and then we danced some more.

The choreographer seemed quite exasperated every time we failed to perform our dance in perfect synchronization, but I’m pretty sure that the steps were different every time we ran through it. I’m also pretty sure that they were making it up as we went along.

He was terribly intimidating (even when he congratulated us on a job well done at the end of the concert). I felt like I was in an audition for a Very Serious entertainment agency. Which was actually super fun for me. I was having a blast. I could do that all day every day. SM Entertainment, sign me up!

SM Entertainment, don’t call me — I’ll call you

The next day, we arrived bright and early to our dance team holding tent backstage while fans were already staking out spots on the lawn to watch their favorite groups.

“We just saw some k-pop stars!” one of the girls exclaimed excitedly as she ran up to our group. “I think it was Infinite!”

‘No way,’ I thought. ‘I am sitting around in this sweltering tent backstage for six hours because I don’t actually have a life, and what else would I be doing? If I was an actual k-pop star, I’d show up like five minutes before I had to be onstage. And I’d demand a dressing room or something.’

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Super Junior’s Zhou Mi gets ready backstage before emceeing the concert on Aug. 4. SCREAMfmLondon

But no sooner had the thought occurred to me than Infinite themselves popped out of their own black tarp tent and made the glamorous journey toward a shared porta-potty. Along the way, they resignedly waved at the jittery fans who were intently watching said journey to the porta-potty.

Amazing! Not only were they, in fact, sitting around in their backstage tent longer than I was, but they also had a lot more pressure surrounding the general porta-potty experience than I have ever dealt with. Possibly, I do not want to be a k-pop star after all. SM Entertainment, don’t call me — I’ll call you.

Make it happen

Once the seats were beginning to fill, we went onstage for our soundcheck. This was the first time we’d heard the song we’d be dancing to — a remix of Kim Young-chul saying “Cheer up, superpower” on an episode of “Infinity Challenge.” It was also the first time we’d met him, but we were pumped. I was pumped. I was ready to roll, ready to party, ready to dance on the very floor where Nam Woo-hyun would also dance.

I felt even better when we came off the stage from our soundcheck, hurrying down the right side of the staircase because Infinite was making their way up the left for their own soundcheck. ‘Yes, this feels right. This is where I belong. Me and Psy — we’re like peers, really.’

Finally, the time came for our official, broadcast-ready performance. We waited patiently in the wings while MCs Zhou Mi of Super Junior, Lee Hong-bin of VIXX and Park Ji-yeon of T-ara gave an introduction. As they passed us on the stairs, Zhou Mi gave us a thumbs-up and whispered, “Fighting!” I grinned. We’re totally peers.

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Why aren’t there any better-quality videos of my moment?! Yours truly, second from the left. SCREAMfmLondon

I felt so alive with all of those confused eyes on me as I wildly flapped my arms in tune to the song. ‘Yep, this is the life,’ I thought. My face was projected on the screens at both sides of the stage as I danced my heart out. I hope Psy saw it, and I hope he appreciates my passion. My face was broadcast on SBS MTV throughout South Korea as I danced my heart out. I hope everybody saw it, and I hope they appreciate my passion.

It went great. The crowd didn’t know what to do with themselves. It was the greatest thing they’d ever seen, I assume.

The Summer K-pop Concert

Exhilarated from the performance, we eventually took our seats in the audience to watch the rest of the concert clutching towels and posters painted with the phrase “I LOVE K-POP.”

It was awesome. Psy was electrifying, and he got the entire crowd up and dancing to “Gentleman” (such a jam) and other hits that shall not be named. He played an unprecedented four songs, and I loved every moment of it. He’s such an incredible entertainer — I’m absolutely certain that I screamed louder for him than any of the boy bands.

GOT7 was awfully super adorable with “Just Right,” which was tragically the only song they performed at the show. The bubbly you’re-perfect-just-the-way-you-are vibe is the cutest and will never fail to warm my heart. I also love the accompanying dance. Watching professionals like GOT7 command the stage really reminded me what dancing is supposed to look like after spending so much time looking at myself dance (or try to, anyway).

Infinite was wonderful, as always. They performed “Bad” from the recently-released mini-album “Reality,” and then closed the show with a more somber ballad. “Bad” is a really awesome song with a theatrical, Hans Zimmer-style introduction and a dark, sexy overtone. It shows off the strengths of several band members — namely Dongwoo, whose rap verse and featured dance were some of the highlights of the performance.

Altogether, I had a blast at the concert. It was one of the most entertaining strange situations I’ve ever inserted myself into. I sincerely hope I get to do it again. SM Entertainment, I’m back onboard.

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Psy performs at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival. SCREAMfmLondon

Live: 2015 Dream Concert at Seoul World Cup Stadium

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The Seoul World Cup Stadium aglow with the passion of k-pop fans. SCREAMfmLondon

On May 23, I attended the 21st annual Dream Concert. The concert is a k-pop smorgasbord: emceed by Leeteuk from Super Junior and featuring performances from more than 30 k-pop groups from rookies to chart-dominating stars.

Yeah, I know. More than 30 bands. I feel like everyone who’s ever had a song in their heart was invited to perform at this event. So, strap yourselves in for this intensive band-by-band recap of the 2015 Dream Concert:

24K

24K performed “Hey You,” and the moves for the chorus of this song were some of my favorites from the whole event. That’s a pretty suave dance and a catchy beat. But I want to know why two of the band members were wearing facemasks during the red carpet procession and through the entire performance. Is this their concept? Who cares about a boyband that doesn’t have faces? Don’t they know that the faces are like 70 percent of the appeal of a boyband?

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4Minute and EXO stand together awkwardly at the end of the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

4Minute

4Minute was one of the groups I was most looking forward to at the Dream Concert. Their performance of this year’s hit “Crazy” was excellent, but the second number (“What’s Your Name?”) was kind of uninspired. HyunA, I still love you, though, girl.

9Muses

I found “Drama” to be a boring song with some boring costumes. And I know they’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes, but it kind of bothers me that there are only eight members of 9Muses.

B1A4

B1A4 put on a really engaging performance — probably one of the best of the night. I was not feeling their outfits (nice shorts, y’all), but the live show sold me on the song “Solo Day.” Quite adorable and good stage presence.

BTS

BTS (short for Bangtan Boys) performed “I Need U” and “Fun Boys.” BTS is more on the hip-hop end of the spectrum (one of the guys is named Rap Monster), but, like, as hip-hop as you get wearing Bermuda shorts with suspenders. “Fun Boys” is kind of a jam, though.

Berry Good

Berry Good was probably my favorite of the rookie groups. Definitely my favorite outfits of the night with flouncy pink miniskirts, matching pink ties, chunky heels and glittery wrist cuffs. “Because of You” was also a good song: I was into the juxtaposition of the sweet verses against the weird dubstep pre-chorus.

Boys Republic

Boys Republic was one of several groups working the sexy schoolboy angle at the Dream Concert. Unfortunately for them, the sound was pretty screwed up during their set (although the sound mixing was pretty awful throughout). However, they put on an amusing show — by that, I mean that they came out with the kind of drippy “Hello” and then switched it up by ripping off all their clothes during “The Real One.”

BTOB

Man, am I the only one who has a hard time telling the difference between BTS, BTOB and B1A4? Not enough variety in these band names. BTOB performed “Wow” and “Beep Beep,” which were fun songs, but not that memorable.

CLC

CLC performed a remix of the song “Pepe,” but it was not anything to write home about, so I will refrain.

EXID

I was quite looking forward to EXID’s performance — as was everyone else, I think. Both “Ah Yeah” and “Up & Down” are excellent songs with really recognizable trademark dances, and I especially love LE’s unique rapping voice. For their set, EXID covered the stage with about 5 million backup dancers, but they had to perform a watered-down version of “Up & Down” to appease the family-friendly audience, I guess. Still, EXID put on a great show and had the entire venue buzzing.

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EXO at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

EXO

EXO is a fantastic band, and both “Call Me Baby” and “Growl” are phenomenal songs. EXO’s fanbase at the Dream Concert was also kind of awe-inspiring and terrifying. I’m not sure why exactly EXO didn’t close the show, as they clearly should have. The well-orchestrated fanchants during EXO’s set could be heard clearly outside of the venue, across a few streets of traffic. All of the band members looked great (Chanyeol’s styling was particularly cool), but I’m just afraid they’re going to drop dead of exhaustion at any moment.

GOT7

GOT7 came to the Dream Concert straight from some rigorous promoting schedule, and it showed. The sound quality was also pretty wack during their set, which affected the show. Mark still did a lot of sweet acrobatic moves during “Stop Stop It” and “Girls Girls Girls,” but it wasn’t the best performance. It was a bummer because they looked visibly frustrated coming offstage, and they’re usually so affable and charming.

HALO

I don’t remember HALO’s performance of “Grow Up” as much as the impression they made walking the red carpet. Nice shorts, y’all.

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This is a crummy picture of Infinite standing dramatically during the intro to “Back.” SCREAMfmLondon

Infinite

Infinite was such a delight. I was really looking forward to Infinite, and I’m still stoked about it. They looked sharp in sleek black-and-white suits as they performed “Back” and “Paradise.” And what’s more: while some bands look so dead behind the eyes while going through the motions of their dances, Infinite seemed so glad to be there. Literally no one was having more fun than Dongwoo. They couldn’t get him offstage after the show. They had to cut the sound from his microphone, and he still kept jumping around and playing with the fans long after everyone else had left. It was so damn endearing.

Hyoseong

Jun Hyo-seong of Secret performed her solo song “Into You.” She is super attractive, but she appeared creepily robotic during her passionless performance. I was very scandalized, however, when one of her dance moves included having a female backup dancer reach around from behind and give her breasts a firm squeeze. Whoa! And EXID can’t do their “Up & Down” pelvic thrusting?!

Kara

Kara revealed “Cupid,” the first track from the group’s newest mini-album, “In Love,” for the first time at the concert. They also wore some white, fringed vests. I felt ambivalent toward all of it.

LABOUM

LABOUM was another of my favorites from the rookie stages, but I took off points for the sexy baby concept. “Sugar Sugar” is such a cute bubblegum pop song, though. It’s very reminiscent of American girl group sounds from the 1950s — even the adorable, simple dance.

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Lovelyz at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

Lovelyz

Lovelyz performed “Hi~” in cute mismatched schoolgirl outfits and released a ton of multicolored balloons into the sky during their set. It looked cool, but, damn, that’s a lot of litter.

MFBTY

MFBTY’s performance was a pleasant surprise at the dream concert. The hip-hop group consists of Korean hip-hop greats Drunken Tiger/Tiger JK, Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy. Together, they played “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” and “Monster” with guest appearances from many of the other Dream Concert artists — Chanyeol from EXO, Wendy from Red Velvet, LE from EXID, Baro from B1A4, and Rap Monster and Suga from BTS. The songs are good and the collaborations were interesting, but they actually messed up their set and had to start all the way from the beginning again, which killed my buzz, as well as the illusion that this was a live concert.

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Monsta X at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

Monsta X

Monsta X was so much fun. The performance of “Trespass” began with a guy popping out of a trap door a few feet from my face and aggressively ripping off his shirt. He was then joined onstage by his bandmates — as well as a slew of backup dancers dressed in cheap police uniforms. Hell yeah, is this the Dream Concert or a bachelorette party? I don’t even remember what the song sounded like, but who cares?

Oh My Girl

OMG performed “Cupid” dressed in cheerleader uniforms. I feel like there are a million bands who have performed a song called “Cupid” dressed in cheerleader uniforms, but at least the chorus of this song is catchy.

Red Velvet

Red Velvet opened the show, for some reason. I was really looking forward to their performance, but I wasn’t ready for it when they began — and then it was over just as quickly. Plus, they released some giant Red Velvet beach balls during this set, so I had to concentrate on not getting bonked instead of watching the show. “Ice Cream Cake” is a jam, though, and Red Velvet should’ve performed a bit later on in the evening.

ROMEO

I had the best seats in the house, I think — especially for backstage insight. One of my favorite behind-the-scenes moments was when Romeo was running onstage to perform: one of the guys tripped over the plastic mats covering the soccer field and totally ate it right in front of me. Also, they performed “Lovesick.” But that guy fell down! Comedy gold.

Secret

In addition to Hyoseong’s solo stage, Secret performed “Magic” and “Madonna.” Neither were very interesting! Moving on.

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SHINee closing the 2015 Dream Concert like pros. SCREAMfmLondon

SHINee

SHINee closed the show like pros. They performed “View” and “Love Sick” from their latest album, “Odd,” which was just released on May 18. “View” is a really catchy, kind of clubby song that is (dare I say it?) probably my favorite SHINee song to date. The band executed their moves flawlessly, and Jonghyun and Key looked super cool. But Taemin… Taemin wore a strange oversized sweater and a pair of oversized pants with the phrase “OPEN HERE” printed boldly down the fly. It was a killer performance, but somebody needs to dispose of that outfit.

SISTAR

A great behind-the-scenes moment came after Sistar’s techno remix of “Touch My Body.” When the backup dancers climbed offstage before the group’s second number, Bora casually left right alongside them while her bandmates were introducing the next song, “I Swear.” Somebody had to grab her by the arm and throw her back onstage to finish the performance. Anyway, I think I enjoyed the re-imagined rendition of “Touch My Body,” but the sound was so blown out, I could barely hear anything. C’mon, Dream Concert.

Sonamoo

When you see 30 bands in one sitting, it can feel like you’re seeing the same thing over and over again… No, wait, I’m sorry, that’s just Sonamoo performing “Deja Vu.” Ha. Ha ha.

SPEED

I thought Speed was cool. The boys looked casual yet powerful, and like they were having a lot of fun. They wore schoolboy uniforms and shoes equipped with skates, so the dance for “What U” could incorporate some effortless gliding as well as their typical acrobatic tricks. Throughout their set, they skated back and forth across the stage in backwards caps. Kind of a “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” aesthetic.

T-ara

T-ara performed “Little Apple,” followed shortly by Eun-jung’s solo performance of “I’m Good.” Eun-jung, the lead vocalist and rapper in T-ara, made her solo debut as Elsie at the beginning of the month. Her solo stage was an unusual change of pace — more lyrical and easy-listening than the pop and hip-hop that dominated the Dream Concert.

Topp Dogg

What I really enjoyed about Topp Dogg was that the band name was misspelled as “ToppGogg” on the official Dream Concert poster. There are also like 500 people in this band. They performed “Top Dog” with some impressive pyrotechnic effects that coincided with the song’s chorus (“T. O. Double P. / D. O. Double G. / Topp Dogg!”). Their set was highly entertaining.

VIXX

VIXX is such an embarrassing breed of ultra-adorable that it’s kind of likeable. Their style is almost too cutesy for me, but I found their Dream Concert performance to be one of the best. They performed “Love Equation” and “Error,” and I was officially sold on the goofy move where they spell out their band name with their arms. Also, Leo’s voice is beautiful, and I enjoy how vaguely uncomfortable he always looks because I’m hoping he feels as conflicted as I do about that VIXX choreography.

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The 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon