Where do I even start? It’s been a long time (5 years) since I’ve seen him do anything live, so watching him perform in a musical 4 days in a row is something that will take me quite awhile to digest and reflect upon. But I do really want to introduce this wonderful musical to all of you, and tell you about how significant and amazing of a performance it was by Dongwookie.
To give you a bit of background, “Maybe Happy Ending” is an original Korean production, written by Will Aronson and Hue Park. The original production performed to sold out crowds in Korea with the last performance being in early March, 2017. They decided to bring the musical to Japanese audiences with a totally new cast and with an altered set as well.
I won’t go into the story as I’ve done that in detail down below. This summary got longer and longer as I typed and I found myself translating some dialogue as well. If you could get your hands on all the dialogue it is indeed very funny and entertaining but this will have to do.
This musical explores themes such as longing, fear, hope, and other human emotions – things which are unchanging, within a setting where technology and change has become a way of life. The story is set in the 2nd half of the 21st century and the world is viewed through the eyes of two robots. Love, life, all the beautiful things we experience will disappear in the end. When we realise this, what should we do? That despite this, we should love more? Is it worthwhile to do so even though pain is the result? Knowing all this, will it be a happy ending for us? These are some of the questions which the writers present to the audience.
(Click on each image to enlarge)
SUMMARY & TRANSLATION
I’m a big musical fan but this is the first musical in Korean that I’ve seen so that in itself was a new experience. I didn’t know too much about it before I went in and I deliberately did that so that it wouldn’t ruin my enjoyment of the musical.
As I said, I saw it 4 times, 4 days in a row (that’s a first as well! I’ve watched a musical 4 times but not 4 days in a row!). Double casting for Claire meant that I watched 2 performances with Kim Bo Kyung and 2 performances with Song Sangeun. Personally, I preferred Kim Bo Kyung because she is a stronger actress (I felt she was much more able in complementing Dongwookie’s acting), her voice matched better with him as well and her version of Claire is a much more bubbly character than Song Sangeun’s.
But first impressions first, the 1st performance I watched was with Song Sangeun. Commenting on Dongwookie, I was really blown away by his acting, especially in the first half. As I didn’t see him in Elisabeth, this is really the first time I’ve seen him act since Goong S (haha). I feel bad even making any comparisons between something from 10 years ago to this, because he’s not in the same league anymore. Compared to what I’ve seen of Elisabeth though, this was n times better as well. It’s hard to put in words just how much better his acting is. Like, it was REALLY GOOD. Dongwookie’s Oliver is bright, happy, sensitive, dorky, fun and very very cute. His comedic timing was spot on and he used his body so well. There is hardly any dancing in this, the story is told through singing, acting and lots and lots of dialogue. Not only that, there is no intermission, it goes from beginning to end with no break for 1 hour and 50 minutes. I can understand now why he rejected the offer 3 times, there is so much dialogue! But he pulled it off well and the story just flowed. There were so many times when I was so surprised because I’ve never seen him talk or move that way (that’s the beauty of acting!).
The thing which worried me beforehand was the emotional/sad scenes. He did well though and was convincing (few more tears would have been better?)
Musically, it wasn’t as satisfying for me. I felt there were really no standout songs and nothing particularly came to mind after I watched the 1st performance. By the time I watched it 4 times, some melodies were starting to stick. My favourite numbers were Oliver’s duet with James, and perhaps the song that Oliver and Claire sang just before they reached Jeju Island. I liked them because the harmonies were refreshing and showcased Dongwookie’s voice better than some of his own solo numbers. To be honest, I think the key was a bit too low at times and didn’t sit well with his range.
The other thing which left me a bit unsatisfied was the transition from Oliver finding out about James’ death to him falling in love with Claire. I wish there was more time dedicated to Oliver grieving over James’ death. I wanted to see more of this bond which was so special to Oliver.
Overall this musical was great. It was definitely entertaining, and it’s funny up until the last part. The questions thrown at the audience by the musical might evoke different emotions, thoughts and answers depending on your view of life, your faith or your personality. Many people cried in the end in all 4 performances I watched, although I didn’t myself. As a Christian, I found that it reminded me of True Hope and True Love found only in Christ, so it was a great time of reflection for me.
But whatever your answer or reaction to those deeper questions might be, “Maybe Happy Ending” was a pleasant experience and I’m so glad I watched it!