Tag Archives: Kim Sung-kyu

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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August 23: Architecture, art and more

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View of Mapo-gu from the 34th floor, overlooking the Han River. SCREAMfmLondon

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Infinite kicked off their Infinite Effect world tour with a concert at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul on Aug. 8. SCREAMfmLondon

  • Before the Infinite concert on Aug. 8, we were caught in a torrential downpour and had to take shelter in the subway station, where concertgoers had set up little makeshift refugee camps to dry out. We were ridiculously drenched, and my Sungkyu stickers got all warped. But everything was wonderful once our seven boyfriends took the stage. They go above and beyond to create a fantastic experience for the audience: flying signed paper airplanes into the crowd, riding cloud-shaped carts around the arena to hand out actual roses to fans, performing unbelievably in-sync choreography (including the famous scorpion dance move during “Before the Dawn”), and Woohyun’s top coming “”accidentally”” unbuttoned. Also, we did the wave! It was the perfect concert.
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Such picturesque architecture in Samcheong-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

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A collection of Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits are on display at Seoul Arts Center from June 26 – Oct. 4. SCREAMfmLondon

  • The Modigliani exhibition is housed on the uppermost floor of the Hangaram Art Museum within the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-dong. It is organized into seven themes: Paul Alexandre (Modigliani’s first patron), Portraits of Men, Caryatids (based on the female-shaped columns often present in ancient architecture), Jeanne Hébuterne (Modigliani’s lover, a fellow artist), Portraits of Women, Nudes and Moïse Kisling (a friend of Modigliani’s and another fellow artist). The exhibit is well laid-out and emphasizes Modigliani’s portraits as a means of self-reflection. The subjects of his paintings are usually characterized by their long necks and dark, vacant eyes colored in with no pupils. Modigliani is quoted as saying “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes”  — a quote that is displayed prominently in the gallery alongside his work.