▲ Poster of Grandpa is a Superstar. Provided by Vine Production.
Out of many things, there are two important parts of life that never go old— dancing and dreaming. The two also share the characteristic that they are considered increasingly childish, immature, and sometimes even inappropriate things to do as people age. Should dancing and dreaming be treated so harshly by society?
Imagining any person over 70 years old dancing is slightly unnatural. Since last year, at the musical, Grandpa is a Superstar, people have been able to see what they might have found hard to imagine. The plot of the performance circles around a seemingly immature elderly man and a company named Tuning World. The old man has lived his whole life aiming for money and after his wife's death, realized that he has forgotten about his dream to become a dancing superstar. Tuning World is a company that claims to be capable of changing anything, which is why the daughter-in-law of the old man requested to change her father-in-law's decision to dance.
The story hints on various aspects of today's world that may be considered problematic. Firstly, choosing the main character to be an old man allows the audience to instantly relate to old people in general. In fact, Yoon Seong Feel, the actor who played the old man, performed a particularly accurate portrayal of typical old men in Korea. His effort to realistically depict old men provided the young audience a chance to understand the elderly. While problems between the elderly and younger generations originate from lack of understanding, this performance could become a bridge between the two generations and allow them to understand each other better.
Another point that the performance hints at is that people are not only skeptical towards dreams in general, but tend to forget about the fact that they had a dream once in their life. Oh Sun Mi, the actress casted as the president of Tuning World, recommends this performance to people of all ages, because dreaming is free and open to everyone. For university students in particular, Oh mentioned that she wishes students could always remember what they truly dreamed of. She especially recommends this musical for those who are lost, since they would be able to recharge themselves with hopes and dreams.
Various features of human life and society are portrayed through the performance. However, the musical production's running time seemed to be slightly short to accurately communicate those deep messages to the audience. At times, there were sudden leaps between scenes with a lack of information as to what happened in between. Also, there could have been more hints of the background information of each character, since there are only four characters in the performance. A deeper understanding of each character could have allowed a more profound understanding of the messages within the performance.
The most notable feature of the Marronnier Theater is the close distance between the audience and the stage. The audience can easily hear the actors, so every mumbling word from the old man is audible to everyone in the theater, probably even without the microphones that were attached to all characters. However, there was some yelling during the musical, which was disturbing because the microphones made the sound too loud.
▲ Old man trying to breathe in as much as possible. Photographed by Kim Yoon Ji.
Perhaps the microphones were necessary for something else. During the musical, it was difficult to hear the exact lyrics to the songs. Also, the songs did not have much of an impact on the performance itself to categorize it as a musical. The rapping in particular, which is supposed to be all about the lyrics, was rather disappointing because the lyrics were hardly distinguishable. The solo singing of Jung Nami, an employee of Tuning World, was probably the only moment of singing that was memorable.
▲ All performing characters of the musical. Photographed by Kim Yoon Ji.
Nevertheless, the closeness of the seats and stage made it easier for the actors to allow active audience participation. The performance included at least three times when the audience participated, which undoubtedly made the rest of the audience concentrate more easily on the musical. At times, certain members of the audience were asked to come up on the stage to act as a blind date for the old man, and sometimes to sing along with the actors.
▲ Two main characters of the musical during an interview. Photographed by Kim Yoon Ji.
Another factor that truly reveals that the production cares about all audience is the subtitle service available in English, Japanese, and Chinese. At Hyehwa metro station, which is where the Marronnier Theater is situated, there are numerous international visitors who may wish to see a performance, but are usually not able to because of the language limitations. Grandpa is a Superstar provides a chance for such visitors to also enjoy the cultural life of Koreans. The issue of dreams being considered increasingly unrealistic and unpractical is definitely not an issue limited to only Korea. People from all around the world would, to some extent, agree to the fact that dreaming is not permissible any more in today's society.
Current society makes it difficult for people, especially those with a family, to focus on ideal aspects of life rather than practical ones, such as money and honor. People work for things they may not be attached to, but cannot quit because they need to earn money. However, this performance reminds us of the dreams we once had, but have simply forgotten about because of jobs we must endure. Grandpa is a Superstar is a joyful performance that people of all ages can come and watch without pressure, and leave with the courage to immerse into something they once truly loved.