South Korea: ‘Dreamgirls’ with an all-Korean cast

‘Dreamgirl’ Hong Ji-min.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent. 

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – South Korean pop culture meets Broadway in a dazzling production of “Dreamgirls” with an all-Korean cast and a Korean score that’s playing to crowds of mostly young people in a spacious, modern theater.

The songs, scenes, and costumes are all familiar to those who saw the original show that ran for more than four years on Broadway in the 1980s, but the difference is the dancing, the gestures, and the movements. They bear traces of the original but with a distinctive touch of Korean TV and film – the K-Pop genre that’s swept Asia in venues from Jakarta and Singapore to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China.

The show’s reincarnation here marries American music and story and Korean language and culture in a performance sanctified by veteran Broadway director and choreographer Robert Longbottom using American set, costume, sound, and lighting designers.

“Our priority is to produce as wonderful a show as the original,” says Mr. Longbottom, who’s directed and choreographed five shows on Broadway in the past 12 years and appeared in three others in the 1980s.

The decision to produce “Dreamgirls” in Korean rather than bring in a third-string American road company, as often happens here, may account for the show’s long run, by local standards. “Dreamgirls” opened in February and will run through July.

It’s possible to forget while watching the show in the Charlotte Theater, next to the luxury Lotte World Hotel near Seoul’s Olympic Park, that “Dreamgirls” is a loose account of the Motown origins of the Supremes. In the end, it almost seems like an original Korean show.

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