Hero: The Musical
Sung Hwa Chung delivers a strong performance as Korean national hero An Chunggun in this musically derivative tuner.
The undisputed, not to say lionized, hero of Hero, An Chunggun (Sung Hwa Chung) achieved his status when in 1909, he broke through security and landed seven slugs in the body of visiting, supposedly conquering residence general Ito Hirobumi (Sung Gee Kim). The political act was the culmination of careful planning by an insurgent group Chunggun organized and resulted in his arrest and -- despite his maintaining he was a prisoner of war -- ultimate hanging as a common criminal.
Leading to the shooting, An Chunggun in this version associates proudly and dangerously with restaurateur Wangwei (Eui Uk Jeong) and his sister Lingling (Mi Do Jeon), as well as Sorhui (Sang Eun Lee), a witness to the murder of Korean Empress Myeongseong in which Hirobumi is assumed to have had a hand. All three characters, shown as martyrs to their cause, are drawn as composites of those who lent hearts and minds to independence.
Composer Sang Joon Oh, composer-lyricist A Reum Han, and director Ho Jin Yun have quite deliberately decided to approach the musicalization of this story by adapting conventions of Western examples with unalloyed fealty. Most noticeably they've dipped into Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Les Miserables (strong echoes of which are heard lurking in the score's chord changes), Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Assassins and even Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme and Tosca, among other internationally known predecessors.
The cast's performances of this muscular musical material, tightly conducted by Moon Jyung Kim, are undeniably effective. Leading man Chung is not only handsome as a fairy-tale prince, he's got a rocket-propulsion baritone. Yes, time and again he's required to sing agitprop sentiments of the sort that go "each must walk the appointed path" and call for his extending one arm in supplication to higher powers. Nevertheless, even as the contents of the tunes wear thin, he doesn't.
Also on hand is a squad of Ran Young Lee-choreographed dancers -- the women at one instance displaying fan-manipulation facility and the men frequently showing off well-drilled athletic prowess.