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Friday, Sept. 21, 2007

Don Quixote, Korean style

This "Man of La Mancha" has a lot to do with a man from South Korea: Cho Seung Woo, the film-star hero of such hits as "The Classic — Love Story" (2003) and "Marathon" (2005), and star of such musicals as "Rent" (2007), "Hedwig" (2006) and, most notably, "Jekyll and Hyde," whose massive success in Tokyo and Osaka last year owed much to his talents.

News photo
The cast of "Man of La Mancha" pose ahead of their Tokyo run.

Now, with Korean movies still all the rage in Japan, and TV channels awash with dubbed Korean dramas, the Aoyama Theatre is hosting Cho, 27, who this time shares the title role of Don Quixote in this musical with 32-year-old Chung Sung Hwa. As one of Korean drama's greatest actors takes center-stage in an outstanding world-class musical drama, jaws are sure to drop.

Written by Dale Wasserman and based on Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes' masterpiece "Don Quixote," "Man of La Mancha" first opened on Broadway in 1965 and won five Tonys the following year before going on for a 5 1/2-year run. Then, in 2003, a revival on Broadway again scooped three Tonys.

As the curtain opens we are cast into a medieval Spanish jail cell, where a play within a play unfolds as the aging hero Cervantes (played by Cho and Chung), an author imprisoned for blasphemy, develops a play about the ambitious Don Quixote (also played by Cho and Chung), and through this inspires the other inmates with the need to retain hope in the direst of circumstances, and to have a dream in their life.

Cho has made clear his own love of this work, saying, "I saw 'Man of La Mancha' when I was a teenager, and it made me want to be an actor. I hope I also can give such a great experience to the audiences here this time."

Of that there seems little doubt, as Japan's love affair with Korean drama continues unabated and one of its greatest actors plays center-stage in such an outstanding world-class musical drama.

"Man of La Mancha" runs Sept. 22-29 at the Aoyama Theatre, a 7-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station. It plays in Korean with Japanese surtitles.

For more details, call ZAK Corporation at (03) 5474-9999 or visit www.zak-tokyo.co.jp.

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