Produced and directed by Ho Jin Yun, and with a $1 million budget, 80 performers and more than 600 costumes, The Last Empress returned to New York July 31 and ends its scheduled run Aug. 23 at Lincoln Center's New York State Theatre. The show had previously played there for two weeks in the summer of 1997.
Featuring elements of both opera and Broadway musicals, Empress will use English supertitles to tell its true story of Korea's Queen Min. A charismatic leader, Min saw the modernization of Korea during the mid 1800s, only to be assassinated by the Japanese in 1895. With her husband, King Kojong, Min helped open the ports of the "Hermit Kingdom" to foreign powers. Something of an Evita of her time, Queen Min is viewed as both power-hungry manipulator and visionary modernist. The Queen's death eventually led to Korea's liberation from Japan.
Kwang Lim Kim and Yun adapted the Min story from Mun Yol Yi's book, The Fox Hunt. Composer Hee Gab Kim and lyricist In Ja Yang combined on the score, which is orchestrated by Peter Casey. Kolleen Park serves as musical director. Byung Koo Seo choreographs.
Designing The Last Empress are Dong Woo Park (sets), Hyun Sook Kim (costumes), and Hyung O Choi (lighting). The Arts Communications Seoul Company (A-Com) is producing this big-budget epic, which features colorful Korean dress patterned after the Chosun Kingdom (1392-1910), Empress also features a full shaman ritual sequence.
Two actresses alternate as Min: Taewon Kim, who played Lady Thiang in the Broadway King And I revival, and Korean actress Won Kung Kim (not related). Sung Hoon Lee plays the King's father; Sung Ki Kim plays the ambassador of Japan. For tickets ($25-$65) and information on The Last Empress, call (212) 307-4100.
-- By David Lefkowitz