A scene from musical "Gwanghwamun Love Story" [Gwanghwamun Love Story]
A man sings "Old Love" on the streets of Gwanghwamun on a snowy day. The man, named Sang-hoon (Song Chang-eui), is a composer who spends his days that are blurry from tear gas, with music. On the other hand, Hyun-woo (Kim Moo-yeol), a junior that Sang-hoon dotes on, is someone who will throw himself into the tear gas. They both love one woman, Yeo-joo (Lisa), in ways that are as different as their personalities. Sang-hoon contains his feelings for her in numerous songs instead of expressing them to her through words and Hyun-woo shows his feelings directly. That is why Yeo-joo stayed by Hyun-woo's side. And Sang-hoon lets go of Yeo-joo and turn back to his songs where he engraves his loneliness and solitude.
Anticipation Quotient: 7 (out of 10)
I am Lee Young-hun
Scenes from musical "Gwanghwamun Love Story" [Gwanghwamun Love Story]
One needs to go into musical "Gwanghwamun Love Story" with the knowledge that it is meant to pay tribute to the late composer Lee Young-hun. That is the only way you will understand Sang-hoon's tree-like love and his symbolistic, rather than explanatory form of expressions which could seem somewhat old-fashioned for the 21st century. "Gwanghwamun Love Story" tells about a love triangle, maturing and the history of the 1980s. And what links the three together are Lee Young-hun's songs such as "Old Love," "When the Love Goes Away," and "Into the Rain." Hence how smooth the story flows will depend on how closely a song's lyrics are in contact with the character's situation and emotions, and on how large of a scale this is all this is delivered to the audience.
Sang-hoon and Hyun-woo, who both come to love Yeo-joo, simultaneously sing "Girl" the moment they first lay their eyes on her. But Sang-hoon is the one who always sings up till, "I will always stay by your side." The song turns Sang-hoon, who represents Lee Young-hun, into a boy as the duet becomes a solo. And "Poetry for a Poem" too speaks on behalf of Lee who is currently struggling with a disease by saying, "Don't cry for me." Most of his songs may only go as far as expressing the emotion one feels from parting with a lover, but it sets the flow of the story and personalities of the characters with fitting arrangement of the multi-layered "Gwanghwamun Love Story." However, being in a venue as large as Sejong Center makes it difficult for the viewer to notice the delicate emotions expressed by the characters, despite the musical numbers being played live by an 18-member orchestra which is rare for an original musical.
Hence, "Gwanghwamun Love Story" will make the middle-aged members of its audience who had enjoyed listening to Lee Young-hun's music, look back on how they themselves lived the 1980s and draw out a feeling of yearning amongst them. But younger onlookers may feel confused, thinking that the way in which Sang-hoon loves another is frustrating and that it is difficult to relate to students who commit suicide for democratization. Past Korean jukebox musicals had been disappointing, going only as far as brooding on memories by featuring hit songs from its time. But "Gwanghwamun Love Story," featuring songs by a single composer, leaves traces of the composer himself through the repetitive use of snow and flowers. It is true that the musical has taken an extra step from existing musicals by weaving out various stories from the stage where musical notes and manuscripts give off the impression of tree-lined streets and the stone wall road of Gwanghwamun. "Gwanghwamun Love Story" can be called a success if it was aiming at attracting a wider age range of audience and introducing Lee Young-hun which is an icon of his era. But more points to relate to are necessary for the show to meet with new audiences every year. The musical will run at Sejong Center till April 10.
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