From “Jersey Boys” to “Mamma Mia” to the “Sound of Music,” the titles are familiar, but 6,000 miles off-Broadway in Seoul, South Korea, musicals are being revived with great popularity. Ticket sales in South Korea soared from $9 million in 2000 to more than $150 million in 2013, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.
Katie Hong studied in New York, and now she’s directing “Wicked” in Seoul. She said Koreans “love big shows.”
Some shows that have flopped on Broadway, like “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Ghost,” have found a second life here.
A Broadway hit like “The Lion King” was not successful here, however. Backstage, producer Seol Do-Yun said it’s about tailoring a show to the audience. His show, “Wicked,” is a spin-off from the “Wizard of Oz,” a story Koreans didn’t grow up with.
In addition, translating a show from English to Korean has its challenges.
“It is as difficult as creating an entirely new show from scratch,” Seol said. “For example, [the words] ‘I love you’ in Korean, you can’t translate it directly.”
Seol said people in this country, divided after the Korean war, have a hankering for light, American fairy tales.
Younger women who generally live at home until they’re married have disposable income and are driving ticket sales. Women in their 20s make up nearly 40 percent of audiences here.
At “Wicked’s” intermission, 19-year-old Lee Jiwoo tells us she sees musicals more than once a month. When asked where she gets the money to see 15 to 16 musicals a year, she said: “I beg to my parents.”
To fill seats, producers are turning to a proven source of stars: “K-pop,” the Korean pop-music phenomenon, which has produced music-celebs like Ock Joo-Hyun.
In her dressing room, Ock told us about managing her transition from teen pop star to Elphaba, the green-skinned witch in “Wicked”. Many in the audience told us they came just to see Ock perform.
“South Korea is a trend-setter, a cultural leader [and] K-pop plays a large role in that,” she said.
At CJ E&M, an entertainment powerhouse in Seoul, Kim Byeong-Seok said American productions benefit from royalties and will make bigger profits as the Asian market expands.
“China has huge growth potential,” he says. “You cannot think about the Asian market without thinking about China.”
While Broadway may be applauding its success in Seoul, when it comes to the broader, Asian market for musicals, the show hasn’t yet begun.
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