Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rebecca Is Still Haunting Seoul

Here's a blurb from the Korea Times:

The musical "Rebecca," on stage at LG Arts Center in southern Seoul, grabs audiences with a thrilling storyline, gloomy stage setting and magnificent music sung by top-notch Korean actors.

The Dutch musical penned by Michael Kunze and composed by Sylvester Levay had its Broadway production cancelled last year due to a lack of financing, but the Korean version is to the original creators' satisfaction.

Based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier and the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, the musical portrays the tragic tale revolving around Manderley, a stately mansion owned by Maxim DeWinter ― played by Ryu Jung-han ― who lost his wife in a boating accident.

The musical is narrated by "I" (Lim Hye-young), the young woman who starts the show by singing "I Dreamt of Manderley." Her life changes when she meets Maxim DeWinter at a hotel in Monte Carlo and he asks her to marry him.

However, instead of being a conventional Cinderella story, Rebecca takes audiences to what happens after the heroine marries the prince, or Maxim in this case, and how Cinderella is swept up by the dark secret of the DeWinters.

When the newly-weds arrive in Manderley, timid "I" is overwhelmed by Mrs. Danvers, the haughty housekeeper of Manderley, who is obsessed with keeping the memory of the former lady of the house, Rebecca DeWinter, alive.

Shin Young-sook, who plays Mrs. Danvers, steals the limelight whenever she appears on stage dressed in black, her hair cinched in a tight bun. Though Shin is not a household name compared to Oak Joo-hyun, a singer-turned-musical actress who alternates as Mrs. Danvers with Shin, she shines with her vibrant charisma and powerful voice.

Mrs. Danvers tries to keep the house how it was when Rebecca was there and Rebecca's favorite Cupid statue is her treasure. The housekeeper is stone cold to the new wife "I" and even tricks her into wearing the same dresses as Rebecca, putting her into the shadow of Rebecca. Shin portrays Mrs. Danvers' unconditional love and loyalty to her former mistress Rebecca to a powerful extent.

Kunze and Levay have a strong fan base here in Korea with their works "Mozart!" and "Elisabeth," and Rebecca once again proves their musical power.
When Mrs. Danvers sings "Rebecca," which is reprised three times throughout the show, she captivates the house with dark charisma. The highlight would be "Rebecca" and "Just One Step" in the second act, where Mrs. Danvers menaces "I" not to take over the position of Mrs. DeWinter. The voice of Mrs. Danvers and "I" intertwine charmingly as they sing of love and hatred toward the late mistress together. The revolving window set and mist effect maximize the gloomy atmosphere of Manderley.

The musical is not as absorbing as the book or movie storywise, since it fails to foreshadow enough or reveal the secret in a more engaging way, but the riveting music and elegant set complement the stage version. The use of video projections is successful in portraying the sea behind Manderley.

Rebecca was scheduled to run through March 31. Due to the huge success it is now running until November 9th, 2014. Tickets cost from 50,000 to 130,000 won. Yu Jun-sang and Oh Man-seok alternate the role of Maxim DeWinter; Oak Joo-hyun, Mrs. Danvers; Kim Bo-kyung, I.

By Kwon Mee-yoo / The Korea Times, Seoul

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