I hadn’t even had time to catch my breath and absorb the complete wonder and splendor of Seopyeonje when my G.Oddess partner in all things G.O, Nelly (MyMyooz), messaged me that our beautiful bias was cast in another musical. Immediately after news broke regarding that fantastic news, I began seeing tweets and posts everywhere. But wait. G.O was single cast in a musical that was scheduled to open on May 11th when he still was in the throes of starring in Seopyeonje until May 8th? Was he crazy?? I thought, this must be a big deal. And, it was. See, The Kingdom of the Winds is a pretty prestigious musical that has its roots deeply set in the art world. G.O cast in a leading role in the musical was indeed a big deal. And one thing was for sure, I knew I was going to have to find a way to see it.
G.O’s run in Seopyeonje was enough to convince director, Lee Ji-Na that she wanted him in her production of The Kingdom of the Winds. Inasmuch as staunch theater aficionados believe single casting him was not wise, I know after seeing him in Seopyeonje, that he is up for the challenge and will meet it head on. I have no doubt he will be equally as amazing in Kingdom.
In perhaps the quirkiest of ironies, G.O comes away from portraying Dongho in Seopyeonje, a son at odds with an overbearing and stern father to portraying Hodong in The Kingdom of the Winds, a son at odds with an overbearing and stern father. I am certain this is merely coincidence but I cannot help but notice the odd serendipity of that coincidence nonetheless.
What exactly is The Kingdom of the Winds about and why all the buzz around G.O in this role? I want to take a closer look so I can understand the storyline, but more importantly, I want to meet and get to know Prince Hodong.
Birth of the Myth
바람의나라, The Kingdom of the Winds, was born from the mind of artist KimJin. It is a manhwa based in the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, a place where history, myth and fantasy collide in a time where ancestors were both worshipped and considered supernatural, and mythical beasts and animals were considered sacred. Fantastical and magical, G.O gets to take part in this incredible adventure.
For some historical background, the Kingdom of Goguryeo was founded by Jumong. Jumong’s birth into the world was magical and the kind of stuff fantasy is made of. I have a point for telling you about Jumong as our lovely Prince Hodong is directly related.
At the time of Jumong’s birth, King Geumwa was on the throne. One day on the banks of the Ubal River, Geumwa met the beautiful Lady Yuhwa and promptly brought her back to his palace. Now here is where it gets a little wild. Upon her arrival to Geumwa’s palace, Lady Yuhwa becomes impregnated by sunlight and lays an egg. Jumong is hatched from that egg. Geumwa was none too pleased. He already had 7 sons and they all resented Jumong instantly. In fact, Geumwa repeatedly tried to destroy the Jumong egg but as it proved to be indestructible, Geumwa ordered that it be taken away and abandoned in the wild. It was his hope it would be consumed by the forest animals.
Instead, the animals nurtured and protected the egg and Jumong was eventually born and comes of age. Of course news of his survival reaches Geumwa and his sons. And, as a result, Jumong falls victim to a series of assassination attempts by one of Geumwa’s sons, the crown prince Daeso. Ultimately, Jumong with a group of his own followers, flee to a place called Jolban where he establishes the Kingdom of Goguryeo and becomes its first leader.
The lineage of Jumong begins and one of his sons, Yuri who eventually becomes king, has two children. One of those children is a son named Muhyul. Muhyul is the main character of our musical.
Muhyul is born with a curse that he will kill his parents, siblings, son and eventually destroy the entire Kingdom of Goguryeo. His father, King Yuri fearing this prophecy wanted to kill him but was unable to bring himself to do so. Yuri then orders Muhyul’s elder brother, Haemyung, to take Muhyul out of the palace and have him live as a commoner. His identity is eventually revealed and in time Muhyul becomes King Daemushin (the god of war). Our musical begins the first year of Muhyul’s rule.
So, where does our beautiful Prince Hodong fit into this mix? Well, Hodong is Muhyul’s son.
Birth of a Conflict
Hodong was born of Yeon, Muhyul’s one true love. In an effort to save Hodong’s life (and I am not clear how), Yeon dies. I am not sure, but I would suspect this lays some foundation for turmoil between father and son. Moreover, they ultimately clash ideologically. Muhyul quests for power and wants to expand his kingdom and uses force and destruction to accomplish such. Hodong yearns for a kingdom filled with peace. Imagine your son is the cause for the death of your beloved and then is not on the same page when it comes to ruling a kingdom. I have to wonder if that early prophecy of Muhyul’s cursed birth will come into fruition. Or, will Hodong have the strength, will, power and backing to overcome his father, overcome that prophecy, survive, and bring peace to the Kingdom of Goguryeo?
The story sounds intriguing and epic and I can only imagine how it will translate to the musical stage.
As an aside, I have to also mention that in late 2008 The Kingdom of the Winds did find its way to the television screen by way of a 36-episode drama starring Song Il Gook as Muhyul. The role won him the KBS Drama Top Excellence Award for his work in the drama.
The Birth of the Musical
The Kingdom of the Winds was first brought to the musical stage in 2006 and again in both 2007 and 2009. It is seeing its return this month at the Seoul Arts Center. This musical is well-established and has a loyal musical theater following. For G.O to be cast in such a popular musical is a credit to his talent. I think he has the acting chops to bring Hodong to life and I certainly know he will be able to carry the music with delicate ease, control and perfection.
Playing the lead, Muhyul, is veteran musical and drama actor, Go Young Bin. He has brought Muhyul to the musical stage each time since 2006. There is solid history between Go Young Bin and Muhyul.
Additionally, there is solid history between Go Young Bin and G.O as they are meeting again as father and son here in Kingdom after having played opposite each other as father and son in Gwanghwamun Sonata in 2012-2013. Gwanghwamun was G.O’s first musical and he shared the role with his MBLAQ brother, Yang Seungho. Gwanghwamun was also directed by Lee Ji-Na and was well-received. Kingdom then is a sort of musical theater reunion of Lee Ji-Na, Go Young Bin and G.O.
Birth of a Theater Musical Star
When asked why he chose musical theater over television drama or film, G.O was quite frank in his response stating that in musical theater he can build deeper relationships with people. And I understand where he is coming from actually. In musical theater (or theater in general), the actors eat, sleep and drink the musical from initial rehearsals through the duration of the run. There has to be an element of trust built between the actors that becomes the foundation of each performance. This trust bonds them.
The other reason G.O chose musical theater was simply because it allows him to do the thing he obviously loves most in the world to do: sing. And inasmuch as I would love to see him in some 20 episode romcom or melodrama, I would choose musical theater first for him, too, as the perfect medium to showcase his incredible talent.
Having now had the amazing opportunity to watch him perform and sing in Seopyeonje, I can say with absolute certainty that he will be equally as compelling and impressive in The Kingdom of the Winds. Seeing him breathe life into Dongho proved to me that he is incredibly comfortable on the musical theater stage. He has the charisma and presence to conquer it and command it. He will do Hodong justice. Of this I am certain.
There has been so much buzz and coverage as of late on G.O as he readies himself to take the stage on May 11th. From the amazing promotional pictures:
To the incredible rehearsal shots (some of which I have already shared above):
To the wonderful rehearsal videos:
Everything about this musical is pointing towards it being an epic experience for this amazing young man as well as for us, the audience.
G.O will be taking the stage at 3:00 PM KST on Sunday, May 11 at the CJ Towol Theater of the Seoul Arts Center in the opening performance of The Kingdom of the Winds. He has a second show at 7:00 PM that same day. I cannot be more excited for him or proud. I believe his choice to pursue musical theater is ambitious and smart as I think he has all the tools necessary to become a huge success in this genre. It is well-established in the entertainment community (and his fandom) that he has a truly remarkable voice. In addition to his talent, however, is his amazing humble appreciation for his fans. Honestly, if anyone is deserving of accolades and fortune, it is this here man!!
Also, I think it is important to note that he is the first K-pop artist to be cast in a Seoul Arts production. The Seoul Arts Center is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture. Yeah, I think this is pretty huge. Even though he must feel somewhat challenged by the prestige associated with both this company of actors and center as a whole, I know he will do just fine. Even if he thinks he will never be called back to perform again as part of this company, I have a strong feeling he will!
If his goal is to pursue acting in addition to music, then the choice of musical theater is perfect. However, I do hope that he does not abandon the pop realm too soon (or at all) as I am still hoping for that full solo album and, well, a tour of the US….at some point!
The Kingdom of the Winds opens on Sunday, May 11 and runs through Tuesday, May 20. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.
For more information on the show, please visit the Seoul Arts Center website.