Seeing the Korean Chicago Musical

Despite the fact that there are still restrictions on group gatherings and public dining (only groups of up to four people can gather in general, business curfews are at 10 PM, etc.), strangely enough to me, in-person musicals are still going on in Korea. I took full advantage of this, despite not knowing exactly why musicals are acceptable and live-viewings for TV shows and other performances are not. My theory is that musical venues are more of a controlled environment?

I grew up loving SNSD (Girl’s Generation), a Korean girl group that is now focusing more on solo endeavors. I was incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing my favorite member, Tiffany Young, play the lead role of Roxie Hart in the Korean Chicago Musical. I had first seen her in Philadelphia on her solo tour, so I knew it would be a different feeling seeing her in a different environment. I feel like in general, she seems more unreachable in Seoul, where she has much more public recognition. Nonetheless, I was overjoyed to see her act and sing live. Also I definitely did want to see a musical in general, but being able to see Tiffany was just super convenient timing.

So Val and I arrive there pretty late, or later than we wanted to be there as we knew there would be lines for merchandise and picture taking of the cast boards/promotional boards in the lobby. We didn’t have much of a choice though and had to sit down immediately. I remember being a little bit awed by the large group of people in the theatre as the last time I’ve seen a large group of people in one room was…..I don’t remember the last time I saw large gatherings before I arrived in Seoul to be honest. Everyone was required to wear a mask, of course, and not all seats in the venue were available to buy. I would say there was an empty seat after every group of two in a row as per Covid-19 guidelines.

To be honest, I don’t know what exactly I was expecting as I had never seen Chicago before and although I understand a good amount of Korean I didn’t really know how much of this musical I was going to understand. From what I gathered however, the songs/lines were directly translated from English so it was difficult to understand in that they used a lot of difficult vocabulary in order to make an effort to keep the essence of the script. It also seems as if the jokes were translated as well so it may have not had the same impact in Korean or some jokes may have just not translated as well as we would wish in general. I guess there’s also the issue of attempting to keep the number of syllables the same or similar in the songs. Of course, Chicago Korea has already been running for many years and has already been refined over the years; these are just things I may have noticed after watching the Korean musical and comparing them to American Broadway clips.

Anyways, the dancing and singing was wonderful. I do think it’s interesting that overall Korean musicals can give off a different overall vibe, in that the acting can be a little tamer. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it either, but I feel that if I saw a Broadway version of this instead I feel like the characters would be a little more pronounced in their acting and extreme in their own right personality wise. Even though my wording is like this, I don’t think the musical was lacking in any way. I enjoyed it very thoroughly!!

My favorite number was “Roxie”, where Roxie is celebrating her headlines and newly acquired fame while the boys (dancers) move about and simultaneously whisper her name in intervals, further putting an emphasis on her. I enjoyed how the dancing and stage direction immensely and also had the song stuck in my head.

I was glad that we were still allowed an intermission despite Covid restrictions and we were able to get a few good pictures of the cast board before we were all ushered back into the hall. I actually wanted to go back out after the musical to take more pictures of the cast board and promotional cut outs, as I really like Tiffany, but we were all led to direct exits out of the building to avoid large gatherings.

At the end of the day I am really glad I got to experience such a musical watching experience over here, while seeing one of my longtime idols at the same time!

A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:

The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.

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