In recent years, K-pop idols have broadened their horizons through their stage debuts, with more singers entering the world of musical theatre, which was once considered an elitist field reserved for classically trained people. .
The latest to take the stage is Mamamoo lead singer Solar, who made her debut in the lead role of Mata Hari in May. The cast included Chang-sub of boy band BTOB and Lee Hong-ki of rock band FT Island, who played Armand, the male lead.
Defying any doubt of her pop music background, Solar has proven herself in the highly acclaimed musical which revolves around the mysterious story of Mata Hari, one of the world’s most notorious spies.
Many praised the performer’s stage presence and she received rave reviews, dismissing those who had been cynical about K-pop idols appearing in theaters.
“We are open to the idea of casting idols on our shows, but their commitment to their other work is often an issue. When Girls’ Generation’s Seo-hyun joined Mom Mia as Sophie in 2016, she was dedicated to the role and was able to give an amazing performance,” said an official from Seensee Company, the production company that cast Seo-hyun. The Herald of Korea.
Whether or not the actor-turned-idol had the musical ability for the stage wasn’t a concern. Like all musical artists, K-pop idols have to prove themselves through auditions before being given a role.
Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany Young was given the role of Roxie Park in Chicago through an open audition held in 2020. It was the first of its kind held by the Seensee Company, which produced the musical. Before that, the company gave roles to a performer behind closed doors.
“We later found out that Tiffany had applied. Some idols avoid auditions because they fear the embarrassment of rejection. But Tiffany knew the character and the show and had the skills to play the role on stage. She didn’t received no special treatment for being a member of a famous K-pop group,” the official said.
Theater producers often try to capitalize on the fame of idols by casting them in shows in an attempt to boost ticket sales.
“One of the benefits of working with someone like Tiffany is the extra attention it brings to a production. She has a great fanbase, and the number of views on our promotional videos proves it. In the In the theater world, it’s hard to get millions of people to hear about your show. It’s something that musical actors struggle to do. But Tiffany did it.
Every performance of Chicago sold out almost entirely. The production company also saw an increased number of male visitors that year.
But this isn’t the first time K-pop idols have found their place on stage.
Bada, who debuted as the lead singer of girl group SES in 1997, was the first high-profile idol to move into musical theater in 2003. Peppermint.
Ock Joo-hyun, a member of first-generation K-pop group Fin.KL, broke into the industry in 2005, taking on the lead role in Aida.
Three years later, she played Roxie in Chicago and won Best Actress at the Musical Awards. The shows she performed in, such as Rebecca, were very successful, and now Ock is considered one of the top theater ticket sellers in Korea.
Appearing in musical theater can be a golden opportunity for K-pop idols who come from an industry where careers are notoriously short-lived.
“When idols feel their careers are in danger of ending, they can start thinking about a new path. Musical theater presents a potentially lucrative option for them. It’s a win-win situation for both parties: idols can launch their careers while bringing fans into theater, which means more money in the industry,” said Lee Hye-jin, professor of communication at the University of Southern California.
Idol singers have proven to be a triple threat while performing in musicals due to their ability to sing, act, and dance.
Since then, the number of K-pop artists appearing on stage has increased, with some even winning awards along the way.
In 2010, JYJ’s Junsu made his musical debut as the titular character in Mozart! In the same year, he won the rookie award at the 16th Korean Musical Awards, proving that in addition to selling tickets, he can also dazzle industry judges.
He performed at the Sejong Cultural Center, selling out the 3,000-seat venue every night for the 15 nights of Mozart!
As K-pop stars increasingly turn to the stage, not all idols have this option, and the ability to sing well remains an important prerequisite. Those with the right talents, however, can use the stage to show the depth and breadth of their abilities.
“People tend to see idols simply as products of the entertainment industry. But K-pop idols can use theater to show who they are and reposition themselves as technically skilled singers.
Lee further explained how musicals are a good opportunity for idols to showcase their other talents.
“Idols know some of the skills needed for musicals, which are an extension of singing and dancing on stage. While acting may not come naturally to some, versatile idols will also have a talent for portraying characters,” Lee added, saying their skills make K-pop singers a natural candidate for musicals.
Lee sees the Korean live music industry as potentially the next driving force behind the popularity of K content, which is why idols are moving into the field.
“South Korea’s music industry ranks among other countries, proving that Korean music has the potential to go global.”
Lee said this could be an opportunity for K-pop singers to enter the US market.
“An American musical called KPOP features idols like Luna from f(x), Kevin Woo from U-Kiss, and Min from the now disbanded Miss A. Just like their idol activities, the musical theater industry could be a land of opportunities where K-pop artists can expand their professional horizons. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network