“Gwanghwamun Sonata is a South Korean musical produced by Ko Sung-woong. Written and composed originally by Lee Yung-hoon in 2008, this musical carries a real sad story. Gwanghwamun Sonata is the last work the composer left to posterity since he created it during his battle against cancer that he didn’t win. Deeply influenced by its inspiration’s context, the musical is relatively close to the Lee Yung-hoon’s true life and looks more like a farewell than an imaginary scenario. What brings a particular depth and meaning to the musical.
The story tells the tragedy of Myung-woo who is middle-aged now and about to die. Facing his dying body on his bed at the hospital, he feels an intense need to remember the most important memories of his life before to leave. He is slowly attracted to another place warm and comfortable which is the Memorial Pavilion. He meets then, a strange but spicy and funny woman who doesn’t seem to be human but looks like one and behaves the same. Wol-ha is a goddess that guides the souls before they take the road of the Heaven. Kindly, she guides Myung-woo through different universes and imaginary worlds where he gradually meets several of his memories. Most of all, he meets his memory about Su-ah. A girl who has been his most precious memory and also his most painful regret as she was his first love he lost during his youth. From this moment, Myung-woo comes back to the memories of his teenhood and relives his life centred around Su-ah. A love that was born during a winter on the Gwanghwamun Square and legitimates the title of the musical.
Gwanghwamun Sonata however owns different titles. We can find the artwork under the titles Gwanghwamun Yeonga, Gwanghwamun Love Story or again Gwanghwamun Love Song. Covered through the medias by CJ E&M, the performance took place to Seoul mainly, at the Sejong Performing Arts Center from the 15th of December until the 14th of January 2018. And as it happens, this theatre centre is located on the Gwanghwamun square.
The chosen cast to act this musical was varied and rich of these legends in the South Korean entertainment with also several young promising artists. Ahn Jae-wook, a multi rewarded actor with more than 20 years of career, assumed the role of the middle-aged Myung-woo. Park Kang-hyun as for him, had the role of the young Myung-woo that the principal protagonist will meet too throughout his travel into his memories. The talented actress Lee Yun-kyung took care of the role of Su-ah when she was older. And the young Lim Min-ji acted the young version of this character that will be the centre of the story. The entertaining Wol-ha was brung to life by the great and incredibly amazing performer Cha Ji-yun who carried on her shoulders the characters’ sorrow and in the same time, turned on a light of laughs that succeeded to add a hint of comedy to the show. The sacred Park Sung-hoon was cast to be the old version of Joon-kon, the kid who will steal from Myung-woo the love of his life. The young one has been interpreted by the actor Kim Beom-jun. And the actress Yu-mi as for her, played Shi-yung, the Myung-woo’s wife he also met when he was a teenager and who never stopped to love him since the beginning despite the frustrating situation.
Let’s mention that the actors Lee Kun-myung and Lee Kyung-joon were also alternatively cast to play the old Myung-woo on different dates. For the same reason, Jung Sung-hwa was also cast to act a male version of Wol-ha. Hu Do-yung and Kim Sung-kyu were also chosen to be the young Myung-woo. And Lim Kang-hee was another actress aimed to play the old Su-ah. Hong Eun-ju and Lee Ha-na were also respectively selected to play the young Su-ha and Shi-yeong.
All these esteemed artists were staged by Lee Ji-na and directed by Han Jin-sub. A complete team of different technicians supervised them for the different sides of their work. Do Yun was in charge of the stage costumes when Kim Yu-sun managed the make-up. The choreographer Su Byung-so developed the dance part and the accessories were prepared by Choi Hye-jin. As for the sound, the technician Jo Yung-jin took care of it.
The scenario was meticulously structured and composed of twelve actions:
– Standing under the shades of a street tree.
– Flying through the deep night.
– Eternal love.
– Only her laugh.
– Sad love song.
– Gwanghwamun sonata.
– When love goes away.
– Old love.
– Memory is more than love.
Gwanghwamun Sonata was a musical very visual. The actions were aesthetical and colourful. The stage seemed more like a painting than a space dedicated to acting. A game with the lights was built with the music and the result was lyrical. The acts were clear and easy to understand even for a non-korean speaker. The costumes were particularly interesting as they represented the imaginary world of the artistic director and incited the audience to adapt their imaginary marks. Most of all, the music was amazing. Authentic artistic inheritance from a deceased composer and treasure of South Korea, the songs and melodies bring too much emotion from the stage until the spectators for you to not shed at least one tear during the performance. Imbued with poetry and sorrow, they were, are and stay the masterpiece of Gwanghwamun Sonata. My special mention as a lucky spectator goes to the actress Cha Ji-yun who definitely burnt the stage. Powerful voice associated with a powerful presence on stage, the excellent Cha Ji-yun was an Artist with a big A among the many other amazing artists. She completely created her own version of Wol-ha and turned this character into a god we can’t forget even after leaving our seat.