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‘The Man Who Laughs’ Screens At KCCN



…contrast rich and poor

Korean Cultural Centre Nigeria is known for screening lots of interesting and educational movies that not only tell the history of the country, but also talk about the lifestyle and politics of the people.

It was a warm breezy evening and the atmosphere was welcoming as people throng to the Korean Cultural centre, Abuja to watch yet another movie being screened.

This time, it was a theatre drama which according to reports cost a whooping sum of 17.5 billion won ($15.7 million) making the project to live up to expectations as the most highly anticipated theatrical production ever with symbolic and luxurious stage art and dramatic music by theater composer Frank Wildhorn, a favourite among Korean theatergoers.

“The Man Who Laughs” is based on the 1869 novel of the same name, written by Victor Hugo. The novel has been adapted into musicals in France, Russia and the United Kingdom, but none of them were good enough to be introduced beyond their borders.

The play revolves around a man named Gwynplaine, whose mouth was mutilated into a perpetual grin at a young age. The homeless boy saves a baby girl in a snowstorm and a wandering carnival owner named Ursus takes them in and raises them. Gwynplaine becomes a circus freak with his distorted mouth and the baby, named Dea, grows into an innocent but blind girl who accompanies Gwynplaine for the carnival shows.

The unconventional family’s simple yet peaceful life takes an unexpected turn when the spoiled Duchess Josiana visits their carnival out of boredom and gets intrigued by Gwynplaine, who is unlike any man she has ever met.

While grabbing attention of the audience with interesting elements such as a secret birth and a love triangle, Johanson tries to discover something that resonates with modern audiences such as social justice and the values of humanity and equality from the story set in 17th century England.

He successfully took the message of “The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor” from the book and brought the gap between the rich and poor to the front of the show.

Composer Wildhorn, who wrote the music for “Jekyll and Hyde,” widened the spectrum of music to portray this complex tale between the poor and the rich and the fateful life and love of Gwynplaine.

Young Gwynplaine sings “A Gentle Death.”

When Gwynplaine sings “Open Your Eyes” at the House of Lords, sharing his experience from the very bottom of society and asserting the idea of the common good to the highest people of England, Queen Anne and the aristocrats taunt Gwynplaine and his naivete.

It reminds us that the society in which we live now where politicians repeat meaningless remarks and “gapjil,” or high-handedness power-tripping, is prevalent.

The grotesque yet spectacular set designed by Oh Pil-young is inspired by the iconic red scar from the deformed mouth of Gwynplaine.

The sets are made of black thorn-like structures and feature an arc that resembles the protagonist’s scar. The arc changes from Gwynplaine’s scar and backdrop for a traveling carnival to a fancy garden party and seats for the haughty House of Lords.

Oh took the concept from a tunnel and the set represents how the poor and the rich are connected with each other on either side of a tunnel as described in the quote “The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor.”

The lead role of disfigured Gwynplaine is shared by three actors ― renowned singer Park Hyo-shin, EXO’s Suho and musical actor Park Kang-hyun.

Jeong Sun-ah as Duchess Josiana

Director Johanson said Park Hyo-shin’s voice is like a gorgeous musical instrument, perfect for carrying Wildhorn’s emotional music, while Park Kang-hyun portrays the innocence of Gwynplaine in the best way. He praised Suho for creating perfect chemistry with the cast.

Supporting characters also are not-so-typical. Ursus, the carnival vendor, is alternately played by Chung Sung-hwa and Yang Joon-mo, who both played Jean Valjean in another Hugo musical “Les Miserables.” Despite his tough first impression, Chung and Yang depict the fatherly figure who looks after the circus troupe, especially Gwynplaine and Dea.

Duchess Josiana, played by powerhouse vocalists Shin Young-sook and Jeong Sun-ah, is a rare female character in a musical who is independent and pursues what she truly wants. Min Kyoung-ah and Lee Su-bin play Dea.

“The Man Who Laughs” is EMK’s 5 years work since its production plan in 2013 with the globally well-known high-class creative team.Presented by EMK International, Glove entertainment and it was produced byEMK Musical Company.