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Women in 50s take stage by storm in hit musical 'Spring, Again'

May 21, 2024 - 14:52 By Park Ga-young
(From left) Actors Moon Hee-kyung, Wang Eun-sook, Ye Ji-won and Hwang Seok-jeong of "Spring, Again" pose for photos at the Sejong Center for The Performing Arts on Monday. (Sejong Center)

The musical “Spring, Again,” produced by the Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre, holds significant meaning for its actors, most of whom are women in midlife.

It’s a rare production that features women in their 50s as its main characters. In developing the piece, the creative team observed their conversation during workshops and incorporated it into the work, making it a devised theater. As a result, the story is a familiar one to both the actors and the audience, the four actors said in an interview Monday.

“I was surprised when I read the script because my story, which I shared at the workshops, was included,” said Wang Eun-sook, who plays a retired TV anchor. Wang, a member of the Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre, has joined all three productions of the musical since the premiere in 2022.

Moon Hee-kyung, who made her acting debut in musical theatre in 1995 and has become a familiar face on TV, said the story also resonates with her. “As I took on that role, it really felt like my own story. I think my mother must have also had a hard time raising me when I was little. When I see young women in their twenties crying while listening to stories about their mothers, I feel they genuinely empathize,” said Moon, who also portrays the same role as Wang.

For this production, two teams alternate, and each performance features seven women and a man.

(From left) "Spring, Again" actors Hwang Seok-jeong, Wang Eun-sook, Moon Hee-kyung and Ye Ji-won pose for photos at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Monday. (Sejong Center)

The 80-minute show revolves around seven women who have been living frantically as daughters, wives and mothers, who suddenly find themselves in their 50s. The high school classmates are excited about a rare outing they've decided to take, but the obligations and responsibilities of daily life still weigh them down, and hot flashes from menopause frequently redden their faces. As excitement and regrets about the past pass by them like the scenery outside a bus window, an unexpected accident befalls them.

"I thought only women would come, but the audience is so diverse -- all ages and genders. It seems like the audience is absorbing the story without any sense of disconnection due to the realistic and multidimensional stories,” Hwang Seok-jeong said. Hwang, also a seasoned actor, portrays a middle school teacher who takes care of her in-laws long after her husband's passing.

Ye Ji-won, making her musical theater debut, is actively promoting the show to many others in hopes that it can reach a wider audience.

"I've been saying for a long time that directors and producers should be interested in the stories of those in midlife. Now that there are a lot of sold-out shows, I think they will see differently," said Ye, who plays an energetic and positive insurance agent who is proactive and passionate about everything.

According to the musical theater company, 11 of the 13 performances staged so far were sold out.

"I also believe this production has the potential to go on not only to regional performances but also overseas for the Korean diaspora," Ye said.

Kim Deok-hee, the artistic director of the Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre, said. “We thought about making a devised production that can be adapted in different regions -- maybe with local color and local dialects."

"I think it can be adapted for other countries. Based on the original format and music, they can incorporate their own stories. We will think about that after this becomes part of the regular repertoire,” Kim added.

The musical company hopes that "Spring, Again," now in its third run, becomes its representative repertoire. Premiered in 2022, its second run last year ran for two weeks. This year, it is running for a month until June 7 at LG Art Center’s U+ Stage.

(Clockwise from top) Hwang Seok-jeong, Wang Eun-sook, Moon Hee-kyung and Ye Ji-won pose for photos at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Monday. (Sejong Center)

Musical "Spring Again" by Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre (Sejong Center)