Love, Laughter and Seung Ho In The Rain ~ The Musical Sabita

Having now successfully conquered some pretty serious and lingering jet lag following my return from Seoul late last month, I am finally coherent enough to set my thoughts down about the musical 사랑은비를타고 [Love Is In The Rain], or as it is affectionately known in the Korean musical theater world, 사비타 [Sabita]. Since I attended the musical with the express intention of seeing MBLAQ’s leader Yang Seung Ho in his role as Dong Hyun, the focus primarily will be on his performance, but admit that I will include thoughts overall on his cast mates and the show overall. Additionally, I am including some fan account material to expose confirm Seung Ho’s incredibly sweet fan service. Yes, MBLAQ’s quietly charismatic leader is more endearing than he leads us to believe, a hundred fold more talented than he is given credit for and yes, more handsome in person than any picture can live up to. For this post, I have taken off my G.O-tinted bias glasses to give Seung Ho my undivided attention and in return, he pleasantly surprised me.

I have to be honest, once I returned home from Seoul I was not sure I even wanted to write about Sabita. I figured all of Seung Ho’s most trusted Seungholics knew the story inside out, watched previous performance clips or even attended the musical themselves. Moreover, everyone had heard repeatedly how well Seung Ho performed and how enjoyable the musical was overall. Even though many A+ were urgently asking me when I was going to write about it, I asked myself: What could I possibly contribute? Then it hit me: I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of what Sabita was remotely about. I would be going in simply to support Seung Ho as an A+, and to enjoy a musical; but, I would be doing so completely untainted with no expectations. Furthermore, I had never seen Seung Ho perform in a musical. This would be an entirely new adventure for me.

By the final show I attended on 19 October, the story of the musical along with the combination of the score and performances of the three lead actors had captured my attention and admiration. Additionally, as a devout A+, I could not let my experiences seeing Yang Seung Ho perform simply fade into the recesses of my own memory. Not only do I think I should write about it, I want to write about it.

The Story

Imagine you have a talent and a dream. The same talent and dream as your younger brother, but only one of you can pursue it. So you take a step back and allow your brother to shine. You give him money, support, love and encouragement and push him out into the world to capture his dream, the dream you both share. Then, somewhere along the way, through life’s complications, interruptions and mishaps, the dream all of a sudden becomes impossible to reach or perhaps no longer attainable. This is how I interpret playwright Oh Eun Hee’s story of brothers Dong Wook and Dong Hyun in the much-loved Korean musical 사랑은비를타고 [Love Is In The Rain].
Older brother Dong Wook is on the verge of turning 40. He seems to have become complacent, yet content in his role as head of a household. A bachelor who takes care of the cooking, cleaning and laundry, he embarks upon these duties with light-heartedness and a smile. In research about the story, I came across some information that suggested there were also two sisters in the family who we do not meet but who Dong Wook is also caring for and perhaps even supporting. I noticed that one of the prop photographs on the piano did have what could have been multiple family members in it. I welcome clarification as my Korean is very weak (very) and Google translate is rather ineffective.

Younger brother Dong Hyun has been gone for 7 years pursuing his dream of becoming a pianist. Dong Wook hears sporadically from his younger brother by way of postcards; however, those do not reveal much other than Dong Hyun is ok and is doing well. Imagine Dong Wook’s surprise then when on a stormy, rainy evening, his brother returns home. Dong Wook is elated. He immediately begins doting on his younger brother who is soaked from the rain. Likewise he is eager to hear all about Dong Hyun’s life as a pianist. But first, he insists Dong Hyun get out of his wet clothes.

Seems the only dry piece of clothing available in the entire house is a frumpy red floral print dress. Yes indeed, we all got to see Seung Ho’s shapely legs. But Dong Hyun in a dress set the tone for what was yet to come.

As the brothers begin to talk it seems clear some kind of tension builds. Forgive me for not being able to expound further on the dialogue but trust me, things began to get a bit heated. Unexpectedly (and before things rose to crisis level), the doorbell rings.

Like a tornado decked in pastels, wedding event company employee Miri bursts into the house throwing streamers, flowers and confetti everywhere while exclaiming ‘Congratulations’! Dong Wook and Dong Hyun are understandably dumbfounded but are unable to get a word in edgewise as Miri immediately goes into performance mode entertaining and celebrating what she believes is the nuptials of Dong Wook and Dong Hyun.

When all of the confetti dust and flower petals have settled, Miri grabs a clipboard from her party bag to get signature confirmation that she successfully delivered the greetings. Dong Hyun catching wind of what has now happened rushes to change back into man clothes…hehehe. When the brothers break the news to Miri that she is in fact at the wrong house, having read an error in the address, she is dejected and humiliated. Although we do not know at this point in the show why, Dong Hyun seems to be able to sympathize with Miri, comforts her and even gives her a bit of a pep talk. It seems he knows a little something about mistake and perhaps failure.

Calm and feeling better, Miri begins to pack up to leave when Dong Hyun asks her to sit down. It occurs to him that Miri’s erroneous arrival at their house was fortuitous after all. It was Dong Wook’s birthday so why not employ her to help celebrate? Calling upon all of her earlier celebration moves and having Dong Hyun join her, it becomes a moment of pure joy for all three of them as they sing, dance and celebrate. Miri comes into the brothers’ lives when they are both wrestling with failure and lost dreams. If only briefly, she alleviates the tension Dong Hyun’s return puts between the brothers. Her lithe spirit and innocent energy perhaps reminding them of happier times in both of their lives. Miri’s sweetness is authentic and her energy infectious. Unfortunately, it did not temper the explosive and climatic moment in the story when the truths both brothers had been hiding are revealed.

A pianist’s hands are his commodity. Without full use, he is rendered unable to play. After the wonderful and playful birthday celebrations, Dong Hyun leaves Dong Wook and Miri alone together where they share some awkward moments trying to hold a conversation. We hear some noises coming from presumably the kitchen where Dong Hyun is maybe attempting to prepare a birthday meal? Not sure, but the noises seem to suggest rattling of pots and pans, things crashing to the floor, and some very vocal frustrations coming from Dong Hyun…lol.

When Dong Hyun returns to the dining room he is holding a piece of paper and asks Dong Wook, “What is this?” while becoming immediately confrontational towards his older brother. They argue. It is intense. And while Miri tries to calm them both, truths spill out from both men about the crushing tragedy of how each have lost use of their hands to play the piano. The piece of paper Dong Hyun finds is a medical report indicating that Dong Wook is suffering from an illness. In their argument Dong Hyun reveals an accident has injured his hand beyond repair. The revelation of their mutual tragedy is heartbreaking yet somehow brings them closer, each allowing the other to sympathize over the realization that both have lost their dream.

As the musical moves towards its close, Dong Wook and Dong Hyun find themselves seated at the piano together struggling to play a duet yet managing to do so. It is a bittersweet moment where you feel that the love the brothers have for one another is stronger and more resilient than the unrealized dreams each have suffered.

[Note: This is my own interpretation of the story and I can be way off. As always, I invite clarification and I will promptly supplement this post accordingly.~^^]

The Music

The 15 songs that comprise the musical backdrop in Sabita are as much a character in the show as their human counterparts. Written by Choi Myeong Seob and composed by Choi Gwi Seob, each song captures the mood and tone not only of the story, but of the heart, soul and psyches of Dong Wook, Dong Hyun and Miri. Of the 15 songs in the musical, Seung Ho sang in ten, with two being solos. He also performed the solo instrumental piece on the piano that opened the show. Unfortunately, there are no cams or audio recordings of Seung Ho during performance but perhaps in time we will get some. I do want to touch on a few of the songs using either previous performances starring other actors, press call performances or simply the audio and I will do my best to explain where in the show they were sung and in what contextual connection they had to the story. [Note: I translated the titles to the best of my ability ~ still learning Korean, so I apologize in advance if they are incorrect.]

그 모습 여전해 [It Still Appears That Way]

This is the song the brothers sing together when Dong Hyun returns. The happy banter in the song between the brothers clearly indicates they are elated to see each other, even if Dong Hyun is complaining of his older brother’s nagging. He basically sings that it appears that nothing has changed. Older brother still nags younger brother.^^ Here is a short clip of the song from a rehearsal with Jeon Byung Wook (Dong Wook) and Kim Kyun Woo (Dong Hyun). Imagine Seung Ho’s voice and the wonderful harmonies between them when they sing together. Seung Ho is outstanding. I saw two performances with him opposite Byung Wook and thought their voices blended together wonderfully.

형은 늘 그런식이야 [Brother Has Always Been Like That]

With this song, we get our first true glimpse into the vocal strength of Mr. Yang Seung Ho. This song is probably one of the most vocally demanding of all of the numbers Seung Ho sings in the show. Remember in the story synopsis I mentioned that after Dong Hyun returns home the brothers’ conversation turns a bit tense? This is the song Dong Hyun sings at that moment. He is angry, defensive and accusatory. As you will see in this rehearsal clip with Park Yoo Deok and Lee Dong Joon, this scene is moments before Miri arrives.

언제 나그 나이땐 [When I Was That Age]

Even though my bias is unshakable, I have to be honest when I say that Seung Ho could possibly pull a bias coup d’etat during this song and steal a couple few several hearts! This is one of my favorite numbers in the show. After Miri has a complete meltdown and feels absolutely humiliated and dejected over having the wrong house (and married couple), Dong Hyun consoles her with this song. I did come across some lyrics to the song but my poor Korean mixed with Google Translate will never do it true justice. However, from what I could decipher Dong Hyun asks in the song, “When has anyone not made a mistake?” And, from this moment encourages Miri to “start from scratch and with a wide open heart, begin.” Seung Ho’s voice was especially wonderful here and made me want to hear him duet more with a female vocalist! Here is a clip featuring Choi Soo Hyung (Dong Hyun) and Kim So Hyang (Miri).

형의 모습 [Brother’s Image]

형의 모습 is the song every Seungholic desires to hear him sing. It is the tender ballad Dong Hyun sings before the explosive confrontation with his brother. Jay’s voice is beautiful in the clip below. But Seung Ho truly surprised me. I find Seung Ho’s voice to be more nuanced than Jay’s. It occurred to me – particularly in a ballad where vocal control is so important, that Seung Ho has matured immensely as a vocalist and that although doing as many shows as he has been doing may be challenging, it is in fact strengthening his voice in ways I am certain he never even imagined. Moreover, being in a musical is likewise strengthening Seung Ho’s connect to the story in a song. I think he will return to MBLAQ songs more vocally mature and more deeply connected to words, meaning and melody. 형의 모습 is a gorgeous ballad and Seung Ho made me feel every bit of Dong Hyun’s emotion as he sang it. It is a song from the musical I wish everyone could hear Seung Ho sing.

내 꿈은 [My Dream Is]

After Dong Hyun discovers the truth of Dong Wook’s condition the earlier argument that began in 형은 늘 그런식이야 [My Brother Has Always Been Like That] is reprised here with absolute explosive intensity and emotion. Seung Ho attacked the scene with ferocity. Of course, I could not understand the lyrics but by the sheer force and delivery in the song it was if Dong Hyun felt betrayed by his brother for not telling him about the illness and Dong Wook fighting back with perhaps how do you think it feels to lose your dream? I quietly lived without telling you, continued supporting you so why are you so angry? It is almost as if Dong Wook says, I no longer have the hope to realize my own dream….but, I can still see you realize yours. Of course at this point Dong Wook is unaware of Dong Hyun’s own loss. It was climatic and dramatic and Seung Ho’s dynamic opposite both Jeon Byung Wook and Lim Hyun Soo is amazing. Both seasoned musical actors elevate Seung Ho’s performance.

사랑 은 [Love Is]

I have to admit, I have watched the following video repeatedly. There is something about this song that just tugs at the heart and within the context of the show brings many feels. This is another one where I wish we had Seung Ho captured performing. After the altercation between the brothers and their subsequent attempt to play the piano together, there is a calm and acceptance. Almost like each has forgiven the other and through all of the misunderstanding and pain, lost dreams and disappointment, the most important thing is love. Waaaaaaah……the feels! Seung Ho’s voice coupled with Byung Wook and every one of his leading lady costars is a mellifluous collision of harmonies and musical poetry during this song. Here are Jeon Byung Wook (Dong Wook), Park Yoo Deok (Dong Hyun) and Lee Kyung Jin (Miri) in the last number (before the curtain call song) of the musical.

At the 4:24 mark, when Dong Hyun begins to sing, I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful Seung Ho’s voice sounds at this particular point in the song. You all know my standard is pretty high when it comes to vocals, but I have to say Seung Ho truly impressed me. He really delivers. And not just in one or two of the numbers, he holds his own in all with strength, perfect pitch and emotion. Well done, Panda…well done!

The Moments

Over the course of the four performances I attended, there really were so many moments that I could share with you. These are some of my favorites:

  • The opening scene. Seung Ho, sitting at the piano in a light-colored suit. The stage dimly lit with a soft spotlight on him as he plays a tender yet solemn composition. Although tinged with sadness, it is exquisite and romantic. I can seriously sit and listen to Seung Ho play the piano all day long. His touch on the keys (much like G.O’s voice) is really akin to a warm caress. As he finishes the piece, he sits back and gently sighs. You sense his character is troubled. The stage fades into darkness.
  • The overture. Here is where we meet our three (and only) actors. When Seung Ho comes out in a conductor cap, black jeans and boots, I recall hearing the collective sigh of fangirl delight. This is the moment where we get to hear Seung Ho’s voice for the first time as the three characters set the tone for the story ahead. His voice is even and strong. And when he walks to the edge of the stage, he is close enough to touch from the first row. The theater at the Dongyang Arts Center is small and intimate. When the song concludes, Seung Ho exits stage left and runs through the audience to a back exit. I am sure this gave his fans sitting on that side of the theater quite a thrill, every single time.^^
  • Miri’s arrival. Miri is all kinds of fun in Sabita.  I had the opportunity to see all three Miris cast in the show at this time (Lee Bo Ram, Kim Ryeo Won and Lee Kyung Jin) and vote Lee Bo Ram and Lee Kyung Jin as my favorites mostly because I felt they each had the best chemistry with Seung Ho. Plus, I felt both play Miri with fearless abandon which suits the character’s personality perfectly. Whereas Ryeo Won (who is wonderful as well) is a tad bit more reserved.As you recall from the story synopsis, when Miri arrives to the house, the brothers are on the verge of an argument and it is her bombastic energy that cuts the tension even if it is all a big mistake for her to be there in the first place. She uses the entire stage, props and even engages the brothers in her celebration dance. The brothers try to keep up with her but she is on a different speed frequency and it is just plain hilarious. Lee Bo Ram was particularly physical and one of my favorite moments during her wedding celebration dance was when she picked up a un-inflated balloon from the floor, began to blow it up and then released it directly into Seung Ho’s face. He clearly was not anticipating that. I thought this was great instinct on Bo Ram’s behalf because Miri was like this loose cannon firing off in all directions. We, as well as her costars, were unsuspecting of what she would do next. So much fun!
  • Miri’s humiliation and ultimate meltdown. After she realizes she is at the wrong house celebrating the wrong couple, Miri feels completely dejected, starts having chest pain and even tries to jump off of what is supposed to be a balcony. Dong Hyun stops her and in the performance I saw with Lee Bo Ram, she nearly made it completely over the rail before Seung Ho pulled her back. OMG!! Seriously, Lee Bo Ram was all in. After she is composed, Miri asks to use the nearest available mobile phone. She unleashes in song (실수투성이 [Mistaken]) and is an anger ball fueled by humiliation. During the song she becomes more and more demonstrative even to the point where she angrily comes at Dong Hyun and starts shoving him around. The brothers are concerned but are basically trying to stay clear of her rampage.
  • Comforting Miri. Feeling like a complete failure and absolutely humiliated, Miri begins to slowly pack up her celebration props. Sensing she needs comfort, Dong Hyun basically tells her everything will be ok. This has to be one of my favorite moments in the show. Dong Hyun’s gentle encouragement comforts Miri as they sing 언제 나그 나이땐 [When I Was That Age] together. When the song ends, Dong Hyun turns to Miri and says ‘Fighting‘ while giving a gentle fist pump. I normally would not necessarily put Seung Ho in the adorable category, but he nailed adorable in that small, sweet moment.

  • Miri gets hired. One of my favorite moments where there is no song involved is after Dong Hyun urges Miri that all will be well. She begins to gather her things and graciously makes her way to the door when Dong Hyun says 잠깐만” [Wait a minute] and indicates for her to take a seat. He is already seated at the table, relaxed, stretched back in the chair, you know…like a boss. Miri stops and turns to him. He begins to size her up and down which immediately makes her feel uncomfortable. She thinks he is being all player-like wanting to get up all in her stuff…lol! But he shakes that off almost in aggravation assuring her that no, no, no, I don’t like you in that way, just sit down. This is when Dong Hyun gets the idea to have Miri do her Celebration number for his brother in honor of Dong Wook’s 40th birthday. Miri begins to speak nervously referring to Dong Hyun as ‘ahjussi‘ over and over until he finally scolds her, asking her to stop explaining that he more of an ‘oppa‘. To which she sweetly and in a cheeky manner says, ‘oppppaaaa‘. Seungholics please take a breath and calm down!! This was my second sighting of adorable in Seung Ho during the performance. He may claim it was all in the acting, but I think he was letting a substantial amount of Yang Seung Ho charm seep right into Dong Hyun at that moment. It was precious and I think it left some of his fans in a bit of a fangirl haze.
  • Dong Wook’s birthday song. Dong Hyun and Miri’s birthday song and dance is indeed one of the highlights of the musical. Yes, this is where Seung Ho wears the infamous pink floral jacket and headband. Seung Ho really hams it up during this scene blending joyous and campy dance moves throughout the number. But there is no lapse in the quality, tone or control in his voice. The Dong Hyun/Miri duo urges Dong Wook to join in and it becomes one of the more playful and entertaining moments of the musical, engages the audience (Byung Wook hi-fived me twice on two different performances) and fills the theater with energy, laughter and joy.

  • Seung Ho’s solo ballad. Seung Ho’s performance of 형의 모습 [Brother’s Image] is a highlight moment for different reasons. Seung Ho really shines during this number. Looking at the stage, he is standing on the left. Miri and Dong Wook are still on stage as well only are seated at the dining room table which is on the right. The stage lights are dimmed with the exception of a soft spotlight on Seung Ho much like in the opening of the play when he was seated at the piano playing. Dong Hyun has just discovered his brother has an illness that has taken away his ability to play the piano and sings about his brother and this revelation with heartfelt emotion and poignancy. In all of its tenderness, it becomes the catalyst that ignites his emotion to build which eventually spills over in the next scene. Seung Ho sounds fantastic in this ballad and over the span of the four performances I saw, kept sounding better and better. I really believe this musical experience and the demand on Seung Ho’s voice is strengthening it. It is as if this role is allowing him to explore different facets of his own voice that he has not had the opportunity to tap into previously, even with all of the hundreds of times he has sung any given MBLAQ song or even in his previous musicals. A musical is different. Yes, it calls upon vocal acuity. But it is more than that. There is more of an internalization going on. In a musical role he is not Seung Ho singing a ballad. He is Seung Ho absorbing all of the history, emotion and experience of his character, Dong Hyun. And if he cannot connect honestly with what his character has experienced and is experiencing, he will not be able to interpret successfully. This is why I feel musical theater is so much more complex than say a movie or drama (not to take away from either of those mediums as all acting requires an actor to connect with the character he/she plays; but add the element of music, and it becomes that much more demanding). Seung Ho is doing a magnificent job of connecting with Dong Hyun. He makes me believe Dong Hyun is a bit of a hellion, somewhat rebellious, absolutely witty and charming and at the same time guilt-ridden and broken. A character with complexity will always be a bit demanding yet is most often the most coveted of all characters to play. As an actor, I am certain Seung Ho would agree.
  • The argument. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to sing anger without it ending up sounding like a bunch of shouting with music. In 내 꿈은 [My Dream Is], all of the fury, confusion and anger is sung out with great force and emotion by Seung Ho and both of his brother actors, Jeon Byung Wook and Lim Hyun Soo while still being wonderfully contained in the contours of the song. It is an explosive moment on stage that ends with Dong Hyun revealing his secret leaving both men devastated and broken. Dong Wook apologizing. Dong Hyun in tears. Let me tell you, when I saw the tears drop from Seung Ho’s eyes and roll down his cheek it was almost too much. And yet at the same time, I was so proud of Seung Ho. I knew that he had absorbed every bit of Dong Hyun’s agony.
  • The duet. After the brothers know about each other’s inability to no longer play the piano, Dong Hyun walks over to the piano perhaps to prove to his brother that his dream of being a pianist is also over. He attempts to play and cannot. Dong Wook joins him and together they slowly and hesitantly begin to play. When they finish Dong Hyun leans gently into Dong Wook putting his head on his shoulder and Dong Wook hugs his younger brother in tight, both men quietly crying. Poignant and bittersweet. I think many of us were crying at this point along with them.
  • The money is yours. I have to mention this little moment because I just love the nuance of it. After the brothers have that moment at the piano, Miri reappears. They jump up wipe away their tears like they have not been crying, acting all macho. It was so cute. I did not mention that when the brothers were violently arguing, Miri was still there at the house. She witnessed it and was privy then to each of their secrets regarding the illness and injury. I always felt her character operated from a very honest place and that she had an innocent sweetness about her. So it wasn’t surprising that she returned to give back the money Dong Hyun had paid her for her work. In fact, I did not mention that after her wedding number and the subsequent revelation that she was in the wrong place, Dong Hyun gave her money in any event for her trouble. She returns to the house to give Dong Hyun his money back. But he would not have it. I loved this little gesture as it seemed like such a natural thing for Seung Ho to do. Miri gives him the money and he is objecting to taking it but instead of handing it back to her, he places it in the little pink purse around her waist and pats the flap after closing it in a gesture that said, ‘it’s yours, you earned it…keep it.’ It was on one hand so sweet and at the same time authoritative and sexy. It was such a leader move…lol! Little nuances like that just add to the character, even in its apparent simplicity.

  • Love is. Back in the music section I talked about this song. It is one of my favorites of the entire musical and this moment equally a fave. All the anger has passed. The brothers have nothing left to hide from each other and whether their dreams are lost does matter. Even if I did not understand a single word, I knew that everything was going to be absolutely fine between Dong Wook, Dong Hyun and their new-found friend, Miri. In the melody and in the way all of the actors sing it, you feel healing has begun and a happy ending is at hand, or that there is hope for happy times ahead for all three of them. It is a big beautiful number with gorgeous harmonies. All three actors’ voices fill the theater and are vibrant and strong. And the melodic higher notes Seung Ho gets to sing within the song are just lovely.

The Man

Four performances. One after show sign event. One birthday party/mini-fan meeting. Four outside of the theater after show autograph opportunities. Where do I begin? First, let me point out that when I found out that Seung Ho would extend his performances into October I was thrilled because when I planned my trip for October, there was no confirmation yet that he would be performing then. I had never seen him perform in a musical. The first time I ever saw G.O perform it was in a musical and the first time I ever saw Seung Ho perform it was with MBLAQ. Now I feel as if I have come full circle with the 87 Line having now had the opportunity to attend Sabita.

Initially, I had planned to see two performances, one upon arrival into Seoul on 6 October and the other right before I departed, 19 October. Then the schedule changed and Seung Ho would not perform on the 6th as he would head to Busan to walk the red carpet for the Busan Film Festival. So in lieu of the 6th, I decided upon the 12th.

After I secured tickets to the show on the 12th, it was announced there would be an after show sign with the three lead actors that evening. Unlike Byung Wook and Kyung Jin who asked me my name, Seung Ho just signed my little paper. He must have figured I would be waiting outside after the show so why get all friendly and personable? LOL! He did graciously accept the gift I had for him, however.^^

When news broke that there would be a birthday party/mini fan meeting following Seung Ho’s performance on the 14th, my initial reaction was, nah . . ., I can take a pass on that. But after I saw the show on the 12th, I knew I wanted more AND wanted to attend the birthday party. My thought was, this may be the last opportunity to attend a fan meeting with Seung Ho before he enters the Army.

Our musical actor leader man was in pretty good spirits following his performance. His costars of the evening hosted the party/fan meeting, with Lim Hyun Soo acting as MC. There was a message board. Now, I have never been to a fan meeting so I thought we were to just leave messages of good tidings for Seung Ho on that board since it was in celebration of his birthday. Nope. I found out real fast that those messages were actually questions or comments to Seung Ho from the fans. While I did not get a chance to actually come up with a question I could quickly write on the small post-it note they provided, I did manage to write a quick happy birthday message and signed it USA+. And I wrote it in English. And Seung Ho read it. Slowly he read it, and when he got to the end rather frustratingly said ‘아ㅏㅏㅏㅏㅏㅏ, 영어!‘ Translation: ‘Ahhhhhhhh, English!‘  I think all I wrote (because I was in a hurry) was Happy Birthday Seung Ho, love and support always from USA+. Not too difficult, right? I guess he was expecting a question. I blame Hyun Soo as he was the one taking the notes off the board, examining them and passing them along to Seung Ho to read. He should have filtered the messages better!

In any event, I don’t think Seung Ho was too troubled by it. But I never thought my message would actually get read OUT LOUD and by him no less. He read a few more, spoke and then posed for a group selca. All in all it was pretty chill and Seung Ho was ever gracious. I also felt his wonderful camaraderie with his co-stars (Lim Hyun Soo and Kim Ryeo Won). I really think Seung Ho enjoys being a part of this musical.

The birthday hat tho. . . too cute, right?

As if Seung Ho did not wow me enough with his performance in Sabita he truly proved that his fan service is on par with his MBLAQ brothers G.O and Mir. Perhaps it is because G.O and Mir are currently serving out their military duties that he is giving A+ some extra special attention. Yeah, that might be part of it. But I happen to think regardless of what may have been said about him in the past, Seung Ho is definitely a fan-oriented artist. I was in awe of how he patiently signed autograph after autograph for every person who waited in line for the opportunity. Out of four opportunities, I managed to get three autographs and each time it was my turn, I had a different name. Inasmuch as I vowed NEVER to get an autograph for another fan after the Mirror fan signs,  I found myself feeling generous and got autographs for two other A+.

I did not know what Seung Ho’s method was in giving autographs in an after show situation and thought he simply signed his name. But this panda surprised me. The first autograph I got was for another fan. I only had the small envelope the ticket came it. I had to make do. I thought he would just sign his name and be done with it. Imagine my surprise when he signed his name, then writes “To” looks me square in the eyes and waits for me to tell him my name. Took me a little off guard but I recouped without too much embarrassment. Seung Ho 1, Michele 0.

After the birthday party, I opted to just watch him and the fans instead of get an autograph. I knew I would have another opportunity. So as he patiently signed away, I just walked around him and took pictures.

Following that 14 October performance, my travel partner in crime (Marisol) and I decided ok yeah, we should probably go see the performance on the 18th as well. Yang Seung Ho is not even our bias and we still felt his magnetic pull to go see him again! Like I mentioned earlier in this ridiculously long post, each of his performances (in my opinion) got better and better. So those of you getting to see him in November are probably getting to see even better performances. I just feel Seung Ho is improving in every way each time he steps out onto that stage.

During the after show sign session on the 18th, I decided to get an autograph for another fan. This time, I was prepared. I had something for him to sign and I had the fan’s name clearly written on a post-it note for him to simply copy. I will eventually get all fangirl etiquette in proper order so I don’t look like such a newbie!! As he was signing, the gracious Seung Ho said what he thought was my name out loud, paused and then said “Hi!” Wasn’t expecting that. Look, I knew he was charming but when you are actually on the receiving end, it kind of takes you off guard. Seung Ho 2, Michele 0.

A group of Jeon Byung Wook’s students had attended the show that evening and were waiting for him to come out after the show. They sweetly swarmed Byung Wook, yelled out his name, and made all kinds of commotion. He seemed very touched by it. Byung Wook exited just before Seung Ho so when Seung Ho came out to a lesser reception, he made some comment like where are my screams and commotion…lol. Don’t worry, he still got plenty of love. Calmly and again with great patience he signed for all who waited. As Seung Ho began to leave, Byung Wook asked if he would take a group selca with his students. Seung Ho obliged and I managed a couple of blurry pics as for some reason I was using my phone instead of my camera that night.

On 19 October I got to see musical actor Seung Ho one more time on the Sabita stage. That night his costars were Lim Hyun Soo and Lee Bo Ram. As I mentioned earlier, Lee Bo Ram brought a more physical dynamic to the stage that evening. In fact, I believe that was the evening when she swung Hyun Soo around during either the celebration or meltdown song so violently, he literally fell to the ground and shocked even Seung Ho who burst out laughing. The best part is that Bo Ram just kept going. Her energy on stage was electric and I think that both Hyun Soo and Seung Ho were not sure what ad lib, if any, she was going to launch on them. It was fantastic.

Following the show, I did manage to get an autograph for myself from Seung Ho. He was in a very good mood and once again extremely patient. But I have to give A+ so much credit for their patience as well. There is no pushing or shoving or cutting in front of each other. Actually, I don’t think Seung Ho would stand for that behavior. But you know, he really does lead by example, doesn’t he? His calm, patient demeanor keeps all around him calm and patient. I took only seven pictures of him that evening outside, but just look at the calm…I am so not exaggerating:

Even at my advanced age, there is still this subtle excitement while waiting in line to receive an autograph. Things like, “will he say something to me?” “will I say something to him?”  “will I faint?”  all crowded my mind as I waited. <hehehe> When it was my turn, I had written my name down for him – in Hangul – so there would be no awkward moment of saying my name or having to spell it out, etc. As Seung Ho was signing, I thanked him. He thanked me back. He said my name, I said yes and thanked him again. He thanked me back. As he handed me the autograph, I thanked him again (overkill…lol). He looked at me, smiled and thanked me back. Seung Ho 3, Michele 0.

Final Thoughts

I went into Sabita with no expectations and no knowledge or history of the musical and came out understanding fully as to why, for the past 21 year years, it is one of the best-loved musicals in Korean musical history. It is a story so many of us can relate or connect to for who of us has not failed, sacrificed or loved? With a small cast of three, much weighed on the performances of each and I have to be honest, every single one of actors I had the privilege to see, delivered.

It is Seung Ho, however, who I really must commend because as an idol coming from the Korean popular music world, his ability to sing and act will no doubt come under scrutiny from a discerning musical theater audience. Fans will always be more flexible and forgiving, it is their nature. Nevertheless, musical theater, even in the west, is deemed prestigious. I am not saying it is superior, but it is definitely on a different level, requires a different discipline and is a genre I am pleased Seung Ho decided to once again pursue.

As I took my seat in the theater on 12 October, I wondered if Seung Ho would be vocally skilled enough should the songs become demanding. He is. I wondered if Seung Ho would be able to interpret a story through song. He can. And I wondered if Seung Ho would make me believe every thought, emotion, and nuance of his character. He did.

Now that I have experienced  Seung Ho, the musical actor, I have only one thought (or dream) in my mind: that he and G.O join forces and star side-by-side in a prominent and influential musical or, even better, write, compose, produce and star in one of their very own.

Dare to dream . . .

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