There is no better way to fully appreciate Korean traditional music than to watch Fantastick. Powerful, passionate, and beautiful, Fantastick is a musical that has run from the early days of 2009 and still continues to impress the audiences with its heartfelt story. Performed on a medium-sized stage, this musical nevertheless takes viewers into a bigger experience of Korean tradition.
Fantastick is a fusion Gukak performance and cleverly incorporates Korean traditions into the musical to give a cordial introduction of it to the audience. The story begins with a love story between a young couple, who the heavenly gods thought to be so beautiful that they gave a special gift of a drum to the man and a flute to the woman. Unfortunately, the woman starts to feel jealous of the drum as the man could not stop playing the percussion instrument that she slashes the holy present with a knife.
The gods, furious with the couple, hides the flute and banishes the woman and her family, the Gukak family, as ghosts that would have to wander forever to find the flute. Once the flute is found and a “fantastic” music is played, then would the woman and her family be freed of the curse. Following the basic storyline, Fantastick is filled with comical, romantic and thrilling scenes.
▲ The Percussion family gives a passionate performance.
▲ The Gukak family is the other protagonists of the musical.
One of the ways that the musical incorporates Korean tradition is by naming all the characters by the names of the Korean musical instrument. For example, the two families which the story evolves around are called the Gukak family and the Percussion family. Gukak is Korean for Korean traditional music and includes instruments such as Gayageum, Daegeum, Haegeum and Ajaeng, which are all also the names of each member of the Gukak family. For example, the female protagonist, Daegeum, plays the instrument Daegeum, which is a Korean traditional flute made out of wood.
The Percussion family also includes members with names of the Korean traditional percussion terms. The male protagonist, Saemachi, refers to a type of a beat that was often used in Korean songs for children. Other names include Jangdan, Goodguri, and Danmori. The story plays out in this household where the flute is hidden and the conflict between the Percussion and the Gukak family is shown as they try to get hold of the flute.
Fantastick is played out with great actions and great music but with few lines of dialogues. Because of this, the musical is especially popular with foreigners who come to visit Korea. Although there is a narration to facilitate the understanding of the story, any dialogue that is spoken in Korean is also translated in subtitles that are projected on a special screen. These subtitles are shown in English, Japanese and Chinese. The musical is easy to understand and provides an opportunity to get a comprehensive grasp of the Korean traditional music. As a matter of fact, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) invited hundreds of Japanese people who were suffering from the after events of Fukushima to Jeju Island and offered them the opportunity to watch Fantastick.
With its solid storyline and strong performance of music, Fantastick also has managed to show high interaction with the audience. Between scenes, the actors would call up a member of the audience and carry out certain musical acts with him or her. The players would also try to hand out gifts of souvenirs and candies to the younger audience to make the show more entertaining.
One of the reasons why Fantastick makes a great performance to watch for Koreans is because it is refreshing. Musicals in Seoul are usually dominated by Broadway productions. It is difficult to find a production written, directed and performed by Koreans. Furthermore, the grandiose music is played with the incorporation of Korean instrument; all the music is played 100 percent live. We eat, see Hollywood movies, and read American novels daily. Enjoying our authentic Korean cultural musical is a good balance for our intellectual diet.
As a matter of fact, Fantastick was met with such praise that the musical is going on a tour in the United States (U.S.). Described as the Korean version of Romeo and Juliet, this musical started its performance in the Los Angeles Ford Theater on September 9 and also performed in the Dougherty Performing Arts Center, San Francisco on September 11. Also, Fantastick is going to be performed on Broadway.
▲ The characters falls in love with each other at first sight.
▲ One of the characters try to engage with the audience by providing “free hugs.”
▲ The narrator of the musical gives the audience a hearty smile.
Appealing to all ages of audience, Fantastick is like a fruit basket of love with comedy, romance and music. Any audience who watches this musical will feel energized by the power of the percussion performance and be touched by the beautiful sounds of the Daegeum, and other instruments. If you want to enjoy a full experience of the Korean arts tradition, then Fantastick is the one for you.