The Last Empress

Pageantry is the keynote for the new Korean musical epic "The Last Empress," presented in a special one-week engagement at Lincoln Center. Visually stunning, with an abundance of extravagant costumes, imaginative sets and spirited choreography, the production is marked by naive (however pleasant) musical themes. Apart from a precipitous second-act stall, the narrative explores a narrow chapter in turn-of-the-century Korea that holds its own fascination. The Chosun dynasty, founded in 1392, began to crumble when in the late 19th century foreign powers sought commercial privileges and Japanese leaders pursued control and threatened Korean independence. The tale's compelling centerpiece is Queen Min (Wonjung Kim), a woman of humble origin who, as the protective and influential wife of the indecisive King Kojung (Hee Sung Yu), faces a turbulent power struggle. Internal revolts mar the queen's attempt to Westernize her country, and a Japanese minister, finding her an obstacle in his plans for control, instigates her assassination

With:
Wonjung Kim (Queen Min), Jae Jwan Lee (Taewongun), Hee Sung Yu (King Kojung), Hee Jung Lee (Inoue), Mu Yeol Choi (Itoh Hirobumi), Min Soo Kim (Kye Hun Hong) Sung Ki Kim (Miura Goroh), Hyun Dong Kim (Chillyunggun

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

The Last Empress

NEW YORK; Opened Aug. 15, 1997, at Lincoln Center's New York State Theater. , 2,764 seats; $60 top

Production: An Arts Communications Seoul Company presentation of a musical in two acts, music by Hee Gab Kim, lyrics by In Ja Yang, book by Mun Yol Yi, adaptation by Kwang Lim Kim. Directed by Ho Jin Yun. Set, Dong Woo Park; costumes, Hyun Sook Kim; lighting, Hyungt O Choi; orchestrations and additional music, Peter Casey; musical direction, Kolleen Park; choreography, Byung Goo Seo; stage manager, Jong Il Lee. . Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

With: Wonjung Kim (Queen Min), Jae Jwan Lee (Taewongun), Hee Sung Yu (King Kojung), Hee Jung Lee (Inoue), Mu Yeol Choi (Itoh Hirobumi), Min Soo Kim (Kye Hun Hong) Sung Ki Kim (Miura Goroh), Hyun Dong Kim (ChillyunggunHak Jun Kim, Do Kytung Kim, Ho Jin Kim, Sang Hoe Park, Young Ju Jeong, He Jung Kim, David De Witt, Mary Jo Todaro, Anne Chun, Tom Schmid, Eric Morgan, Claire Beckman, Samantha Camp, Taewon Kim

More Film

  • Bob Iger Disney

    Disney, Fox Deal Expected for Thursday (Report)

    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, […]

  • European Parliament Rejects Key Proposed Digital

    European Parliament Rejects Key Proposed Digital Single Market Regulation

    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, […]

  • Gaumont's Christmas Comedy Santa & Cie

    Gaumont's French Christmas Comedy 'Santa & Cie' Set for Big Rollout in China

    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, […]

  • Get Hard

    Writer Claims 'Get Hard' Ripped Off His 'Prison 101' Idea

    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, […]

  • Charles Rivkin

    CineAsia: Charles Rivkin Looks to Asia as Locomotive for Theatrical Cinema

    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, […]

  • Tax Plan Strikes Fear Among Below

    Hollywood's Below-the-Line Workers Anxious About New Tax Plans

    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, […]

  • Detective Pikachu

    Film News Roundup: Live-Action 'Detective Pikachu' Gets 2019 Release

    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, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content