As a musical entertainment, the show displays Western influence, and Broadway comparisons are inevitable. While lacking the sophistication of “Pacific Overtures,” the sting of “Miss Saigon” and the historical controversy of “Evita,” there is still much to admire. The music carries a sweet, genteel flavor, with some dramatic percussive accents. The lyrics, sung in Korean, are accessible through broadly displayed English supertitles above the proscenium.
Korean craftsmen have probed the machinery of Broadway musicals in a heady attempt for commercial success. They have succeeded in part. The choreography by Byung Goo Seo offers an exhilarating balance of grace and fury highlighted by merchants and villagers engaging in a vigorous marketplace brawl, a stately banquet ceremony and a militant sword dance. Most feverish is the shaman (Hyun Dong Kim) in a mystical ritual performed to insure the birth of an heir to the throne.
The elaborate costumes (numbering 600) are dominated by gold and bright reds with colorful fans and ribbons as accessories, while the stylized sets include a particularly vivid effect of tall masted ships with actors in swaying crows’ nests. Director Ho Jin Yun has staged the show with a shrewd eye for splendor, from a lavish coronation to the inevitable bloody palace murders. One is not likely to remember the music, but the eyes have been fully enriched