[Herald Review] ‘Orchestra Pit’ musical witty, unexpected barrel of laughs

By 줄리 잭슨 (Julie Jackson)
  • Published : Dec 24, 2015 - 17:36
  • Updated : Dec 24, 2015 - 17:38

What happens when an orchestra conductor marries his violinist, who leaves him for a trumpet player, then ends up falling for a harpist -- only to find out his estranged wife wants to reconcile?

The basic premise of Japanese author Koki Mitani and composer Takayuki Hattori’s musical “Orchestra Pit” may sound befuddling, but its combination of light-hearted humor and up-tempo musical interludes make it a refreshing departure from other blockbuster musicals whose scores and lyrics have been memorized by the masses for decades. 

A scene from the musical “Orchestra Pit,” on an open run until Feb. 28 at the LG Arts Center in Gangnam-gu, Seoul. (Sem Company)
Both directed and starring the mega-popular musically trained film star Hwang Jeong-min, the production is a comedic look at the unsung heroes of musicals -- the members of the orchestra pit.

Oftentimes hidden from both audiences’ sight and minds, the orchestra pit is one of the critical backbones of any live production. The three-hour-long musical tells the tale of an orchestra conductor and the outrageous goings-on with the members of his ensemble while they remain below the stage during a live musical performance.

While the opportunity to see Hwang return to the musical stage is undeniably one of the Orchestra Pit’s biggest selling points, the production’s leading role alternate Oh Man-seok should not be overlooked.

It’s quite a burdensome battle having to play the alternate to a big-time silver screen star, but Oh’s natural quirky and “nice guy” demeanor is what made it possible for him to sing a slapstick duet about a harpist’s calluses without being distastefully cheesy. 

As the leader of a group of out-of-the-box musicians, Oh is able to comfortably deliver many simple, yet well-received comical quips: “There are so many fun and flashy musicals out there. This is not one of them,” Oh says in the musical. “She wants to go on a trip with me! A two-day, one-night trip if you get my drift!”

A scene from the musical “Orchestra Pit." (Sem Company)
And unlike a number of musicals that rely heavily on song and dance to deliver a production’s script, “Orchestra Pit“ actually features a lot of spoken dialogue -- to the point where it became the butt of a stage joke asking if this was a musical or a play.

However, unlike instrument-based musicals such as Broadway hit “Once,” the actors of this musical do not play their own instruments, and ironically rely on the musical’s orchestra pit for instrumental interludes.

The musical also features local stars Suh Bum-seok, Kim Tae-mun, Park Hye-na, Choi Woo-ri and Yoon Gong-ju.

“Orchestra Pit” is on an open run at the LG Arts Center in Seoul until Feb. 28. Ticket prices range from 50,000 won to 140,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2005-0114.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)