Big Korean Drama

Though South Korea’s cinema boom seems to have ended, the country is seeing surprising success in another entertainment field: the stage musical.

A new version of “Dreamgirls,” based on the movie version and destined for a New York stage later this year, is playing in Seoul through July 26.

A number of older French musicals are also packing them in. But the real story is the success of homegrown, Korean-language shows, many with a nostalgic flavor, that have proved a huge draw for Japanese tourists.

Many of these original musicals, with titles like “My Scary Girl,” “Thrill Me,” and “The Harmonium in My Memory,” feature Korean actors and actresses who have gained fame in Japan through TV drama series and films.

Most of these musicals do not feature program translations, subtitles or earphone guides in Japanese, the Korea Times pointed out.

The Japanese fans interviewed by the newspaper said they aren’t bothered by the lack of linguistic services. Their main complaint is actually a lack of publicity.

In many cases, tickets for new shows or cast members are announced only a few weeks before the first performance, making it difficult for Japanese fans to make travel plans in time.

As a result, one ticket agency official said it is difficult to estimate how many Japanese are attending the musicals because many buy tickets “on the spot without reservations.”

Tourist agencies have also picked up on the trend by offering package tours to Japanese spectators that include one or two stage musicals.

As a result, more theater companies have started putting information about their productions in Japanese on the Internet, and plan to offer printed programs in Japanese at the performances.