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Two frauds find true lives through encounter

Posted April. 12, 2022 08:28,   

Updated April. 12, 2022 08:28


The story begins as Soo-ah, a Korean American who works as a casher at a grocery store in a small city in New Jersey, the U.S., meets a suspiciously awkward old man calling himself as Nebula. Soo-ah introduces herself as a photographer, and Nebula asks her to take picture of him. During the process of taking pictures, Soo-ah finds out that Nebula is the fourth understudy of a dictator infamous for being a lunatic murderer.

The musical “Showman: A Dictator’s Fourth Understudy” opened on April 1 at National Jeongdong Theater in Jung-gu, Seoul, depicts the process in which a fake dictator and a bogus photographer find their true identity.

Yoon Na-mu and Kang Ki-doong are double casted for the lead role of Nebula, from an eight-year-old good at mimicking others to a young man who plays various minor roles at theaters and an understudy for a dictator who delivers public speech in front of the audience. Park Ran-joo and Jeong Un-seon are double casted for the role of Soo-ah, who has lived the entire life belittling herself as a nanny for her sick brother. At her work, Soo-ah emulates her boss’s behavior and way of thinking to replace him, who is currently on sick leave, and creates a new personality. Soon Soo-ah recognizes that she is no different from Nebula, whom she hates, in that they both live their lives in a false identity.

The stage choreography of “Life is deep as much as my height,” the number that adorns the beginning and the end, encapsulates the message of the entire work. When blue lighting covers Nebula on stage like rising waters of deep ocean, Nebula struggles with his hands raised above his head. The lyrics of the song that goes like “Life is the sea as deep as my height” is used as a metaphor. “I want to depict the life’s struggle that one must try hard if he or she wants to breathe in the ocean as deep as his height,” says Han Jeong-seok, the musical’s writer.

The other numbers of the musical, including “Original” and “Good Girl,” are catchy as the audience can easily sing along. An orchestral band consisting of trumpet, an unusual instrument in the musical, violin, and cello, gives a live performance. “I thought trumpet is an instrument that effectively depicts the dreariness Nebula must have felt, and it became one of my favorite musical instruments,” said composer Lee Seon-yeong. The musical will be onstage through May 10 at 70,000 won for all seats.

Ji-Hoon Lee easyhoon@donga.com