Asia News: ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ Extends; BTS Hosts Bang Bang Con: The Live

‘Phantom Of The Opera’ Holds Strong In Korea

According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, one of the few theatrical productions in the world that has soldiered on during the COVID-19 epidemic is a local production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End musical “The Phantom of the Opera” at Seoul’s Blue Square Hall.

In fact, the production has been such an inspiration for so many that Webber himself pointed to it in order to urge the British government to follow South Korea’s lead in fighting the virus and save Great Britain’s theater industry.

The 126-member production in Seoul has managed to continue presenting 8 shows a week during the pandemic, albeit under very strict cautionary measures, including monitoring of patrons’ body temperatures, surveys regarding patrons’ contacts and mandatory mask-wearing.

The production was suspended for three weeks in April after two members of the cast contracted the virus, and then reopened later in the month when everyone involved in the production had tested negative. In the meantime, the company adopted a strict health safety regimen in accordance with government guidelines. Since then, no cases have been detected either among cast and staff or among attendees. The British culture secretary said on Twitter that he discussed via teleconferencing with his South Korean counterpart on June 3 possible measures that the UK could take in order to reopen its own theater sector.

The “Phantom” production has been so successful that it has been extended. Originally, it was supposed to end June 27, but will continue until Aug. 8, after which the production will travel to the city of Daegu in central South Korea.

At present, South Korea, especially Seoul, is struggling with a second wave of virus outbreaks, but nevertheless is cautiously reopening its live performance sector. The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Osmo Vanska, performed live in front of an audience for the first time in three months June 18 and 19, with musicians spaced 1.5 meters from one another on stage and a more sparsely seated audience.

More musicals are planned for Seoul this summer: productions of “Mozart!”, “Rent” and “42nd Street” have been announced to open in coming months.

Courtesy Big Hit Entertainment
plays MetLife Stadium May 18-19.

BTS Hosts Bang Bang Con: The Live

K-pop concerts, however, are still choosing the online route for the moment based on the idea of opening the concerts up to a more global audience. On June 14, BTS presented Bang Bang Con: The Live, a 100-minute streamed concert that reportedly drew 756,000 viewers – equivalent to 15 stadiums’ worth – from all over the world, thus making it the largest paid online music event in history, according to the group’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment. Among the 107 countries that tuned into the concert were the U.S., China, UK and Japan. Local media reports that revenue for the concert was about $18 million. As a result of the event, the BTS fan club increased by 10,000 new members.

In a statement, Big Hit said, “Despite the difficulties the concert industry is going through due to COVID-19, BTS is being evaluated as opening new possibilities through its online concert.”

The concept of the concert was certainly unusual. The Korean word “bang” means “room,” and the songs performed during the concert shifted from one room to another depending on the theme or mood of the song. Partnering with the U.S. streaming service Kiswe Mobile, the BTS concert allowed viewers to watch the whole show from six different camera angles.

Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix Reportedly Canceled

TTG Asia reports that this year’s Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, scheduled for Sept. 20, has been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic and related restrictions. A statement released by the promoter, Singapore GP and Formula 1 on June 12 said that “the prohibitions imposed on access and construction of the event venue required for a street race in the city” lead to the cancellation. Normally, the construction of the race circuit would have commenced in May.

SGP Deputy Chairman Colin Syn said in a statement, “The last few months have been extremely challenging on all fronts, and we have now made the difficult decision which Formula 1 and our stakeholders accept we have to take. Ultimately, the health and safety of our contractors and their workers, spectators, Formula 1 crew, staff and volunteer marshals is our number one priority and we thank everyone for their patience and unwavering support thus far.”

Along with the cancellation of the race, the attendant Night Race concerts have also been called off. No acts had been announced for the concerts. Past Night Race events have featured such artists as Gwen Stefani, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse and Fatboy Slim.

Singapore’s Zouk Ranked Number 1 Club

According to DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll, Asia’s number one dance club is Zouk Singapore, which, like all clubs worldwide, has seen its business suffer greatly during the pandemic. On June 15, local newspaper The Straits Times ran in interview with Zouk Group’s CEO Andrew Li, who talked about the club’s fortunes.

As Singapore awaits the return of live shows, Zouk is transitioning to a restaurant and livestreaming club space. “We think of it as a pop-up kitchen serving staples like pasta and steak,” said Li. “Clubs will probably be the last to open, so it’s a good test to see how we can safely enter that space again in a more controlled environment.”

Zouk has received requests from event companies for awards shows and game events, and the venue is now experimenting with other forms of presentations that take social distancing into consideration. It’s easy for Zouk since they have 31,000 square feet to “play around with,” says Li.

That space includes the main 1,500-capacity Zouk nightclub, the Phuture music lounge, the upscale Capital lounge and club space and the intimate cocktail bar Queens. It is Capital that is being transformed into a restaurant once Singapore enters phase two of its reopening plan.

Li stresses that its application as a food dispensary must be approved first. The club also sells its signature cocktails to go. Li says that the closing of the club has provided the staff with a lot of time to “be more innovative,” and in a sense he believes they can come out of the pandemic with a more flexible business model.

Slipknot Postpones Asia Tour

Slipknot has announced the dates for their rescheduled We Are Not Your Kind Tour of Asia, which will now take place in January.

As promised, the Japan version of Knotfest will return, on Jan. 10-11 on the outskirts of Tokyo. The band will then headline the Singapore Rockfest on Jan. 13, and make their concert debut in Manila on Jan. 15. The tour will wrap up in Jakarta on Jan. 17 at the Hammersonic Festival.