Seoul (Day 2) – Mozart! Das Musical

Amanda and I have a tradition of seeing bombastic American action films while traveling abroad (think Transformers III in Lima).  I’m not sure yet if we’ll manage such a screening on this trip, but I think Mozart! das Musical — a bombastic Austrian musical — might be a near-perfect alternative.

We stumbled upon this treasure while taking refuge from the rains beneath the portico of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Seoul.  Having just barely outrun the deluge, we turned around and saw a giant poster advertising what could only be a glam-rock musical performed by K-pop stars.  There was enough guy-liner and angst to fuel a million teenage fantasies!  Of course we instantly purchased two tickets for our last night in Seoul.

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Mozart as Korean pop star?  How could you NOT want to see this?

On the evening in question, we changed into our finest theatre-while-traveling attire and headed out for a night on the town.  We started with dinner at Hangaram restaurant near City Hall that Veronica had suggested.

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We ordered the stuffed pollack (not delicious) and the grilled sea bream (probably
the best thing we’ve eaten in Korea so far); also a host of side dishes.
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Look!  Duk bok ki!!
Friends had been urging us to try it, so after our food came I looked it up on the Internet,
thinking I’d try to order some, only to discover that it was already sitting right in front of me.

After dinner we had a leisurely walk to the performance hall, enjoying the rain-free evening.

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Sejong Center for the Performing Arts

The interior looked like a cross between a what I would imagine a Soviet bank to look like (did the Soviets even have banks?) and a casino.  Everywhere I looked, there were groups of teenage Korean girls posing for pictures in front of the publicity posters and cast photos.

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One of those posters gave a timeline of the musical’s history.  How has this been happening for fifteen years without any of us knowing about it?

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The auditorium itself was actually top notch.  We were in the nosebleed seats on the third balcony, but our view was still very good.  The giant pipe organ on the right gave some unexpected character to the room.

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I know, I know, this picture is totally violating all sorts of copyright.

As for the show itself, what to say?  From a production standpoint, it was obvious that no cost had been spared.  The sets, costumes, lighting were all top notch.  And the performers were good, too.  Turns out you can do Broadway-style belting just as well in Korean as in English.  As for the music, well, it’s a good thing those singers could belt, because that’s all they did for the entire three hours of the show.  I kid you not, every single song was a power ballad that tried to bring the house down.  The melodies were also pretty derivative.  We recognized occasional references to Mozart’s own music, but more often we just heard strains of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

And the plot?  Who knows — it was all in Korean, so we had to interpret the spectacle.  It went something like this:

  • Mozart as a kid is trotted out by his father to perform for a bunch of people wearing awesome hoop skirts.  He plays the piano, he plays the violin, he collapses on the floor.  Marie Antoinette shows up and sings a song.
  • Mozart, now a dissolute young man, spends his time gambling.  He goes to a brothel-and/or-madhouse run by the Thenardiers, where he holds singing auditions for the women.  He picks the flooziest of the floozies and may or may not have fallen madly in love with her.  He leaves and a deliveryman brings hats and bread.
  • There’s a red Darth Vader who likes to sing dramatic baritone solos on his staircase while his hoop-skirted maids march in formation in the foyer.
  • At some point Mozart becomes haunted by this little-kid self.  At first everything’s fine — who wouldn’t want to be haunted by a six-year-old wearing lace and a wig? — but then things get angsty between Mozart and his dad.
  • Red Darth vader rides in a coach through the woods.  He has a heart attack, but is cured when his servants set up a toilet and a screen and make him go Number 2.
  • Mozart continues to have lots of angst; no one knows why, only it never ends.
  • Act Two:  Everyone is now a vampire rockstar.  This is why we came to see the show.
  • I dozed off for a while, so I missed some of the finer plot points of the second act.  I’m jolted awake when the little-kid ghost of Mozart starts stabbing grown-up Mozart and Marie Antoinette appears again floating the air.
  • Eventually the murderous child succeeds and both Mozarts die alone in bed.  THE END.

So there you have it:  Mozart was a vampire and was murdered by his childhood ghost.

The audience, of course, LOVED it.  Or at least they loved the performers.  The guy who played Mozart and the woman who played Marie Antoinette were clearly the beloved stars — all the teenagers in the audience were beside themselves clapping and screaming and waving both hands in the air.  Down in the orchestra section, there was a whole crowd of teenage girls giving a super-enthusiastic standing ovation.  That in itself was fun to see.

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