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Korean production of 'The Phantom of the Opera' to return after 13 years

Published : Jan. 9, 2023 - 16:09

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(From left, top) Four actors, Cho Seung-woo, Choi Jae-rim, Julian Kim and Jeon Dong-suk, will play the Phantom. (From bottom, left) Sohn Ji-soo and Song Eun-hye take the role of Christine and Song Won-geun and Hwang Gun-ha will perform as Raoul. Actor Cho Seung-woo will play the Phantom. (S&CO)

The Korean production of the musical “The Phantom of the Opera” is returning for the first time in 13 years.

The third Korean-language revival after the 2001 and 2009 runs, the latest production is set to premiere in Busan and will feature headlining actor Cho Seung-woo, musical actor Jeon Dong-suk and baritone Julian Kim as the Phantom. Sohn Ji-soo and Song Eun-hye will take the role of Christine.

The Busan performances will kick off at Dream Theatre, a venue dedicated to musicals, on March 30 after a preview from March 25 to 29.

After wrapping up in Korea's second-largest city on June 18, "The Phantom of the Opera” will take the stage in Seoul from July 14 to Nov. 17, with musical actor Choi Jae-rim also joining the cast as the Phantom.

The main cast members are performing in "The Phantom of the Opera” for the first time.

“I'm really happy that it came at a time I was ready to take on the role, which is a dream role for a musical actor,” Choi said.

Actor Cho Seung-woo will play the role of Phantom. (S&CO)

Cho, who is performing in a new musical for the first time in eight years, said he was honored to join the production.

"I've been on stage for more than 20 years but it is hard to tell when I might be able to perform Phantom again (in the future). This is truly a precious opportunity and I will do my best," said Cho.

It was not possible to stage the musical, one of the longest-running shows on Broadway and at West End, sooner in Korea because of the scale and production costs, an official at the production company S&CO said.

“For this production, we will replicate the originality of the musical,” the official said.

The first production in 2001 in Korea generated 19.2 billion won ($15.4 million) in ticket sales with an audience of about 240,000 for 244 performances. At the time, Korea’s musical industry was worth about 3 billion won, and it was a huge commercial success that highlighted the potential of the musical market.

In 2005, the original team visiting Korea attracted 195,000 people and the 2009 local production was watched by some 300,000 people.

By the time the international tour with the original team had ended its run in 2013, the number of audience members in Korea that had attended either a local or international production hit 1 million, a barometer of success for a musical in Korea.

Marking 35 years on Broadway, “The Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running musical in Broadway's history, will be staged for the last time on April 16 at the Majestic Theatre. The flagship London production will continue.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical, based on the 1910 French novel by Gaston Leroux, opened in the West End in 1986 before making its Broadway debut in 1988.

The musical won numerous awards including the Olivier Award for Musical of the Year in 1986 and the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1988. It has since inspired the 2004 Joel Schumacher film adaptation starring Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson and Minnie Driver.

This year, the 75th anniversary of Webber’s birth, the first Mandarin-language version of the show will open in Shanghai in May.

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From left, posters of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals “The Phantom of The Opera,“ "Cats,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” [DREAM THEATRE]

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How ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Survived the Pandemic

The musical’s world tour, now in Seoul, weathered a cast outbreak to become perhaps the only major show running. Can theater learn from its example?

Banners for “Phantom of the Opera” hang outside the Seoul theater where its run has recently been extended. Credit... Woohae Cho for The New York Times

Supported by

Jennifer Schuessler

By Jennifer Schuessler and Su-Hyun Lee

  • Published June 1, 2020 Updated June 6, 2020

“The Phantom of the Opera” has garnered plenty of superlatives over the years, including the longest-running show in Broadway history. But in recent months, it has also laid claim to a more unlikely title: pathbreaking musical of the Covid-19 era.

As theaters around the globe were abruptly shuttered by the pandemic, with no clear path to reopening in sight, the world tour of “Phantom” has been soldiering on in Seoul, South Korea, playing eight shows a week. And it has been drawing robust audiences to its 1600-seat theater, even after an outbreak in the ensemble led to a mandatory three-week shutdown in April.

The musical, with its 126-member company and hundreds of costumes and props, is believed to be the only large-scale English-language production running anywhere in the world. And it has remained open not through social-distancing measures — a virtual impossibility in the theater, either logistically or financially, many say — but an approach grounded in strict hygiene.

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And it’s one that its composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is arguing can show the way for the rest of the industry, a point he is hoping to demonstrate to the world, as he prepares to turn the Palladium, one of seven theaters he owns in London, into a laboratory for lessons learned in Seoul.

“I don’t think we should just be sitting on our hands and saying, it’s all doom and gloom, we can’t do anything,” he said in an interview last week. “We have got to make the theaters as safe for everybody as we possibly can,” he said. And South Korea, he said, shows that it can work.

That the show, at the Blue Square cultural complex in central Seoul, has gone on is a testament not just to the protocols in the theater, but to South Korea’s rigorous system of test, trace and quarantine , which has kept the virus largely under control.

It was also a matter of sheer timing and luck, though it didn’t seem that way at first.

When the tour’s previous stop in Busan, South Korea’s second biggest city, wrapped up in mid-February, the country was emerging as the latest epicenter of the pandemic.

The company mostly went home for a break to Britain, Italy, North America, Australia and elsewhere. Serin Kasif, vice president of Lloyd Webber’s company, the Really Useful Group, and the producer of the tour, said she was fielding daily messages from company members anxious about whether to return.

On March 2, when Kasif flew to Seoul to begin preparations to open there, South Korea had the second-highest number of confirmed cases, and the pandemic had not yet fully hit Britain.

She contrasted the “overwhelming sense of fear” that developed in London with what she had experienced in Seoul, with its clear governmental directives and local partners who had lived through previous epidemics like SARS.

“When I was speaking to our Korean partners, in lead-up to the decision to continue, one said, ‘The word “unprecedented” keeps getting used, but it’s not unprecedented here,’ ” she explained.

“Amazingly,” Kasif said, the entire company returned to Seoul. Matt Leisy, a Northwestern University graduate who plays Raoul, said that when he went home to New York during the break, friends were “freaking out” at the idea that he might go back to Korea. But he said he was reassured by the producers’ constant communication about safety protocols, as well as their videos of daily life in Seoul.

“It was quite scary leading up to us coming back,” he said. “Who knew we’d end up being in the safest place in the world?”

The protocols, which are mandated by the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are strict, but they are not particularly space-age. Before entering the theater, audience members are sprayed with a light mist of disinfectant. Thermal sensors take each person’s temperature, and everyone fills out a questionnaire about symptoms and recent places they’ve visited, so they can be notified of any exposures they may have had through the country’s contract-tracing app.

There are hand-sanitizing stations throughout, and ubiquitous signs and announcements reminding everyone that masks must be worn at all times. And in contrast to movie theaters, where alternating rows or seats are left empty, no seats are blocked off (though the first row was removed).

Backstage, there’s a similar drill: no embracing, no handshakes, no inessential physical contact. Reusable water bottles are forbidden, along with sharing food. Wigs, props and costumes are regularly sprayed or wiped with antibacterial cloths. Everyone must wear a mask, except for actors when they are being made up or go onstage, and some members of the orchestra.

Sharon Williams, the head of wardrobe, said that masks and “constant hand-washing” aside, protocols for the 17-member costume department are not that different than they would be normally, beyond extra cycles of high-temperature washing with anti-bacterial soap.

The crucial element, she said, is the whole company’s rigorous cooperation. “No one is saying ‘I’m not going to do it,’” she said.

As for the onstage action, Kasif said there have been no modifications — and yes, Raoul and Christine still kiss.

Which isn’t to say the actors haven’t had nerve-racking moments. Leisy said initially he was “hyperaware” of all the saliva flying around the stage, especially in big numbers like the Act Two showstopper “Masquerade.”

“When I enunciate, the spit really flies out of my mouth,” he said. “At one point, we’re all dancing and singing our faces off and I look around and see all this saliva flying. I thought, ‘My goodness!’”

(The first row of seats is a seemingly safe 5.2 meters from the edge of the stage, according to a video issued by the show’s Korean producer in early May detailing the safety precautions.)

The run, which has been extended until August (after the touring production of “War Horse” set to follow in the same theater canceled), has not been without its bumps. In late March, about two weeks after the show opened, one of the show’s ballerinas said she wasn’t feeling well. She was tested, and the result — positive — was back by 9 a.m. the next morning.

Authorities moved swiftly to lock down the theater and check if all guidelines were being followed. A mobile testing unit was installed on the roof of the apartment building where the cast and nonlocal crew live, and everyone was immediately tested both for active virus and antibodies. (A male ensemble member also tested positive but remained asymptomatic.)

All 76 members of the touring company were quarantined for 15 days in their apartments. The local employees were also tested, and quarantined at home. (A local production of “Dracula: The Musical” also decided to suspend performances in this period, in response to the outbreak at “Phantom,” according to local news reports.)

In keeping with local policies, the more than 8,000 people who had seen “Phantom” received text alerts informing them of the outbreak. Another announcement, which Kasif said was drafted in conjunction with authorities, was sent to patrons, describing the safety measures that had been in place.

Kasif suggested the fact that the virus had not spread more widely in the company was proof, at least “anecdotally,” as she put it, that the protocols work.

“The ballerinas are a very close ensemble,” she said. “They share a dressing room, warm up together, perform together, warm down together. They happen to be very good friends socially. So if the guidelines weren’t working, on paper they all should have had coronavirus.”

The show reopened on April 23, and ticket sales have been about 70 to 85 percent full since, Kasif said. Even last Thursday, when a spike in cases in the country led authorities to close all public museums, galleries and entertainment venues across greater Seoul until June 15, the seats were mostly full, according to a reporter who attended. (Publicists for the show declined to provide box office information.)

Private venues, like the Blue Square, were allowed to remain open, and “Phantom” continues to operate “in accordance with KCDC guidelines and instructions,” Kasif said in a statement.

Several audience members expressed concern about the spike, but said they trusted the theater’s measures and the country’s larger public health response.

Yi-seul Lee, 28, a graphic designer, had seen the musical in March and said she didn’t want to miss the chance to see it again. “Unless we shout very loudly while watching the show or take off our masks, I think we are more or less safe,” she said.

Still, some fans thought the uncertainties of the pandemic had dampened spirits a bit. In-hae Bae, 36, a human resources manager who was seeing “Phantom” for the sixth time, said that every time the actors embraced, the virus popped into her head. And the applause at the curtain call, she said, seemed “timid.”

“They were way too calm,” she said of the audience. “It made me think, ‘Coronavirus must have strangled our passion, too.’”

Jennifer Schuessler reported from New York, and Su-Hyun Lee from Seoul.

An earlier version of this article described incorrectly how audiences for a Seoul production of "The Phantom of the Opera" were notified by public health authorities about a coronavirus outbreak among the cast. The notification was sent by text alert, not through an app. The article also implied incorrectly that a second announcement describing safety measures at the theater was a public announcement made by authorities. It was made by the production and was sent only to audience members.

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Jennifer Schuessler is a culture reporter covering intellectual life and the world of ideas. She is based in New York. More about Jennifer Schuessler

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Phantom of the opera seoul shows run from july 21-nov. 17.

Image: S&CO

After successfully opening in Busan, the Korean cast version of The Phantom of the Opera is set to open its Seoul shows beginning on the 21st of July.

The nearly four-month run will take place at the Charlotte Theater until November 17th.

The cast includes Cho Seung-woo, Jae-lim Choi, Jeon Dongseok, and Song Won-geun.

The Busan shows ran for 2 1/2 months at the Dream Theatre and concluded on June 18th.

Tickets for the Seoul shows run between 90,000 won and 160,000 won and can be found on Interpark Global.

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[SEOUL] The Phantom of The Opera World Tour

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All audience members must submit self-questionnaires before entering the auditorium

This questionnaire is to comply with the ‘Prevention Guidelines of Infectious Diseases for Theatres’ and is collected from all audiences. The collected personal information is used only for epidemiological tracing in the event of a confirmed patient.

.Questionnaire is available at the theatre and please submit the filled in questionnaire when you enter the auditorium.

. The questionnaire can only be submitted at the theatre on the day of your show observation.

.Admission to the auditorium may be restricted depending on your response on the questionnaire and your body temperature on the day of the performance.

〈Questionnaire〉

-Do you have fever above 37.5℃ or breathing difficulties?

-Were you advised to self-isolate from the health authority within 15 days as of today, or do you have any family members or housemates who were advised to self-isolate within 15 days as of today?

- Have you traveled to any foreign country within 15 days as of today?

*The questionnaire will be destroyed two weeks after the performance.

  • · Booking fee can be refund until 23:59 on the day of the purchasing, Otherwise impossible.
  • · Delivery charge won't be refund for ticket that delivered or returned.
  • · Each different show has different cancellation policy. Please check the policy for relevant show.
  • 1. Credit Card - After 4~5 days(businees days) of purchase, credit card approval will be cancelled. - Cancellation fees and booking fees can be charged depending on the time of cancellation, and refunds will be made except for the fees. - If you have already received the ticket, the delivery fee is non-refundable. - If your order is unpaid, approval details and purchase cancellation are available If you cancel orders after payment with card charge, it will be deducted next month - If you cancel orders after payment, it takes three to seven(3~7) days - Refund date is depend on credit card company's policy. please call credit card company for more details.
  • 2. PayPal - All refunds will be sent back to the payment method of your original payment. - If you paid by Credit of Debit card, your refund will go to your card within 30 days. - If you paid by PayPal Cash or Bank transfer, your refund will go back to the PayPal balance within 5 business days. - Beyond 1 day of the date of the original payment, PayPal's transaction exchange rate ( including a currency conversion spread ) on the date of the refund will apply.   Therefore, due to changes in fees and exchange rates, you may not be able to receive the full amount of the original payment.(10 cents for PayPal payment fee is not refundable even if the reservation is canceled.) - If you need further information, please contact PayPal.
  • · The validity period of the ACE membership code is 30 days from the date of issue. (ex. When you issued ACE membership code on 12/1,   the validity period is until 12/31)
  • · If the ACE membership code expires, you can’t use it. You can only get a refund if you cancel it directly on MY PAGE.
  • · For changing to ACE membership, you have to register issued ACE membership code at Lysn.
  • · Before the completion of registration and certification procedure of ‘ACE membership code’ for conversion to ‘ACE membership’ in ‘Lysn’,   Cancellation of purchase of ‘ACE membership code’ is possible according to the reimbursement policy of YES24, without any separate cancellation fee.
  • · After registration and certification process is completed in ‘Lysn’ (completion of conversion to ‘ACE member’), certain amount of penalty will be incurred,   and the remaining amount will be calculated and refunded in proportion to the remaining 'ACE membership’ validity period.
  • · When the cancellation fee (refund fee) has been occurred, only in the case that you pay the refund fee first you can cancel the purchase of   ACE membership code.
  • · If you receive the ‘Membership card and Welcome kit', the shipping fee won't be refunded.
  • · To proceed on reimbursement process, the buyer of the‘ACE membership code’ must also maintain his/her YES24’s membership during the period of   ‘ACE member’ status from time of purchasing ‘ACE membership code’.
  • · Full reimbursement will be unavailable from time when any of the benefits for “ACE members’ such as preemption for the artist’s concert, paid fan meeting, etc. is already provided or the Welcome Kit and membership card production is already started.
  • · After 4~5 days(business days) of purchase, credit card approval will be cancelled.
  • · If your order is unpaid, approval details and purchase cancellation are available. If you cancel orders after payment with card charge,   it will be deducted next month
  • · If you cancel orders after payment, it takes three to seven(3~7) days
  • · Refund date is depend on credit card company's policy. please call credit card company for more details.
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PHANTOM THE MUSICAL  

Paris, Late 19th century. Gifted with musical genius and cursed with a monstrous face, Erik lives in hiding deep in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House. When he hears Christine Daaé's angelic voice, he is determined to make her the new diva. Carlotta, the opera house's resident diva, is overcome with jealousy and devises a plan to ruin Christine's debut performance. Erik is enraged and takes his revenge upon her, setting in motion a series of events that leads to the revelation of his past and his tragic demise. Featuring K-Pop sensation Super Junior’s Kyuhyun, world renowned soprano Sunhae Im and world class ballerina Joowon Kim, this lavish Korean production of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s, “Phantom”, is an eye-dazzling and ear-pleasing take on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel “The Phantom of the Opera''. 

Captured on film by WYS EN SCÈNE from the Charlotte Theater (South Korea)

Presented in Korean w/ English subtitles.

Running time: 2hr 57m

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PHANTOM – KyuHyun

CHRISTINE DAEE – SunHae IM 

CARLOTTA – Shin Youngsook

CHOLET – Lim Kihong GERARD CARRIERE – Yoon Youngseok

BALLERINA – JooWon KIM

Creative Team

D ramatization & Direction by Robert Johanson

Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston

Book by Arthur Kopit

Presented by EMK Musical Company in association with WYS EN SCÈNE

Robert Johanson is an acclaimed musical director whose career spans across three continents.  Since his foray into Asia, he has worked closely with EMK Musical Company for over 10 years on blockbuster musicals such as “Monte Cristo,” “Rebecca,” “Marie Antoinette,” “Phantom,” and “The Man Who Laughs.”

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S.Korean actor Cho Seung-woo of 'The Phantom of the Opera' "Nervous and excited to be part of the production, I will do my best"

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SEOUL December 28 (Yonhap) -- “The Phantom of the opera came to me as a gift when I was in need of something new to kick off my career as an actor,” addressed actor Cho Seung-woo on Tuesday. “When being on stage I felt the hankering of something new and wanted to re organize everything,” adding “I will cherish this opportunity and work very hard.” Stated actor Cho Seung-woo during the interview conducted with the production company SNCO Korea for the musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” South Korean version of the musical “The Phantom of the opera” which will kick off on March of 2023, in 13 years since it was last performed in South Korea, actor Cho Seung-woo will act out the protagonist the Opera Ghost, “Erik.” “I have been on stage as a musical actor for over 20 years and when will I be able to act as the opera ghost wearing the mask again,” adding “Participating in the production gave me time to re think of my motivation and goal as an actor, therefore I feel nervous, and excited at the same time.” addressed Cho Seung-woo throughout his interview. Moreover, actor stated “I have never thought I would receive a role as the Opera Ghost,” adding “I would like to revisit the memory of a big impact the novel and the actor Michael Croft’s OST of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ has provided me when I was young.” Alongside Cho Seung-woo, South Korean actor Choi Jae-rim known for his role in “Aida,” “Kinky Boots,” and more, Kim Joo-taek a baritone singer, and veteran musical actor Jeon Dong-seok has been casted for the production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” For the role of “Christine Daae” a muse of the protagonist “Erik” actress Son Ji-soo, Song Eun-hye were casted and for the role of “Vicomte Raoul” actor Song Won-geun, and Hwang Gun-ha has been casted. “The Phantom of the Opera” is considered to be one of the most highly awaited production which will take the stage in 2023. The fact that the musical has returned to South Korean stage in 13 years have drawn the interest of audiences. “The Phantom of the Opera” is a steady seller written by Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical “The Phantom of the Opera” is known for its great OTS, such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Think of Me,” “All I ask You” and many more. In South Korea the musical was performed in Korean only twice, once in 2001 and later in 2009, and other shows were provided by foreign casts. “The Phantom of the Opera” will kick off on March 30 until June 18 at Busan Dream Theater, and on July 14 it will kick off in Charlotte Theater in Seoul.

(This article is translated from Korean to English by Joonha Yoo)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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The official audio of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera by the 2009 Korean Cast.

The Phantom of the Opera, produced by leading theatre production company Seol & Company, debuted in Seoul in 2001. After an eight-year hiatus, the show returned to the Charlotte Theater on 23rd September 2009. The album was released that November with a cast including: Yoon Young-Seok / Yang Jun-Mo (Phantom) Kim So-Hyun / Choi Hyun-Joo (Christine Daaé) Hong Kwang-Ho / Jung Sang-Yun (Vicomte Raoul de Chagny)

Track Listing: 00:00 Prologue | 프롤로그 00:50 Overture 1 | 서곡 1 03:00 Hannibal | 한니발 05:17 Think Of Me | 생각해 줘요 08:43 The Mirror | 거울 10:23 The Phantom Of The Opera | 오페라의 유령 14:42 The Music Of The Night | 그 밤의 노래 20:34 Prima Donna | 프리마돈나 23:41 All I Ask Of You | 바램은 그것 뿐 27:44 Entr’Acte | 서곡 2 30:12 Masquerade | 가장 무도회 35:39 The Phantom Of The Opera (Reprise) | 오페라의 유령 Reprise 37:01 Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again | 다시 돌아와 주신다면 40:45 The Point Of No Return | 돌아갈 수 없는 길 46:48 The Phantom’s Lair | 마지막 은신처

Experience the power of the phantom with your nearest performance: http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com

Follow the Phantom everywhere: Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhantomOpera Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThePhantomOfTheOpera/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phantomopera/ TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@phantommusical

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—— Far beneath the majesty and splendour of the Paris Opera House, hides the Phantom in a shadowy existence. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the love he holds for his beautiful protégée Christine Daaé is so strong that even her heart cannot resist.

The musical opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 9 October 1986 with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the leading roles, and there have been dozens of productions worldwide since then. The Phantom of the Opera continues to captivate audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End, after more than 11,000 performances and is the longest running show in Broadway history.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mesmerizing score along with jaw-dropping scenery and breathtaking special effects, magically combine to bring this tragic love story to life each night.

#ThePhantomoftheOpera #오페라의유령 #AndrewLloydWebber

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