“A third-class romance drama.” It is seemingly difficult to find a better way to define how people perceive the life of Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria. A 16-year-old who enjoyed horseback riding and walking on a tightrope; a woman who became an Empress after falling in love with her cousin Joseph; a woman whose mother-in-law Sophie, also the grand duchess of Austria, tries to control not just politics but Elisabeth’s marriage life; a woman who never saw the baby’s face for three weeks and never raised her own child after giving birth; a woman who took milk away from the people to use it for her beauty; a woman who got a sexually transmitted disease from her husband because of her mother-in-law’s plot; and a woman who got murdered. However, the musical “Elisabeth” tells us that she is a woman who continuously dreamed of her freedom and who fought for herself to stand on her feet.
Despite everything, the history of Austria felt even more unfamiliar as the musical adopts the form of “Song-Through,” which means music without lyrics. Adding a vague storyline which is described as “a great love” between Elisabeth and Tod, it was inevitable for the musical to become just another third-class drama like the weekly Korean drama "Love and War." Actors changing their costumes a dozen times and special stage equipments were enough to cover up the extreme storyline. However, those displays were rather the sign of “being too much” or just “too less.” Musical Elisabeth is a piece that depicts the repeating cycle of loneliness in a family. Elisabeth, her husband Joseph and her son Rudolph all cry in one voice not to leave them alone. That loneliness was not just in the castle they live in but it resided in the souvenirs sold outside the stage.
The most important thing in any art product's first premiere is whether it could appeal to the mass public. It is difficult to say what is right and wrong, but this musical holds deeper meanings than defining right and wrong. Tod sprang out as a character in the era when people thought committing suicide was an act of being cool. The reasons are in his drowsy music and dancing. Only when Tod is alive, Elisabeth can awaken from her sleep. The Elisabeth playing in Seoul right now is directed to fit the taste of the Korean audience. Nevertheless, it will need to work on more details for the musical to continue on stage. Musical cannot be categorized under the commercial purpose of art because there are depths and values keep springing up during the performances. It is a question on how much value does the musical Elisabeth can have.
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