“AND THEY all lived happily ever after.” Most fairy tales end with such a happy ending. In contrast to people in the real world, characters in fairy tales seem to be carefree. At least, they are never concerned about how they could earn a living and seem to be in bliss by falling so easily in love. Furthermore, most fairy tales seem to guarantee that “anyone can be anything”, as the saying goes in the Disney movie Jutopia. Yet, the reality is not that simple; life is very much unfair in many aspects and, sometimes, financial conditions prevail over love. Then one might wonder, what if fairy tales were to take place in reality? Would all of the characters in the fairytale still live joyfully? The musical Dwarfs depicts what happened to some famous fairy tale protagonists in the modern world after their “happily ever after.”
Breaking the format of the fairy tale
The musical Dwarfs is known as an uh-ren-ee musical. Uh-ren-ee is a compound word of two Korean words: uh-ren, which means adult and uh-rin-ee, which means child. This indicates that the musical will appeal to adults who have a preference for infantile contents. This is because the musical imbues the traditional fairy tales with a sense of reality, which makes it more suitable for adult tastes. In fact, the musical depicts fairy tale stories lasciviously by imagining what happened to the characters after their happy endings. Snow White and Cinderella no longer pursue their ideal love. Instead, Snow White is full of lust and Cinderella advises the Little Mermaid to seduce a wealthy prince. Indeed, the protagonists themselves are no longer the lovely and innocent beings from conventional fairy tales.
Another unique feature of the musical is the switch of the main and supporting characters. Rather than the stereotypical gorgeous blond princess, the dwarfs that used to play supporting roles in the original fairy tale lead the plot. The musical features an adventurous story of kind and cute dwarfs from the fairy tale land. The dwarfs wish to engage in love affairs just as the princess and prince have done. But for dwarfs, who are physically unattractive and have low social status, love is far from their grasp. Then, one day, two dwarfs, Charlie and Big, hear about a ball that will be held in a palace. Charlie dreams of elevating his status by marrying a princess and Big hopes to see Snow White once more before he dies. With the magic power from a witch, the two dwarfs morph into well-proportioned figures and head to the ballroom. Will the dwarfs be able to rewrite the history of fairytale land and redefine an unconventional story of love?
Unfolding the disparities between a fairy tale and reality
Cool and joyful, Dwarfs reflects harsh reality by the satirical behavior of characters. Far from the dwarfs’ idealistic notion that all princesses would be innocent, the princesses have each divorced from their spouse for different reasons: sexual dissatisfaction for Snow White and financial dissatisfaction for Cinderella. The princesses in the musical do not conform to the stereotype that princesses must be kind-hearted and pure. Instead, they are people with completely opposite characteristics, as Cinderella ignores impoverished people, and Snow White indulges her sexual desire and does not even bother to conceal her lust.
Furthermore, lewd jokes by Snow White and ridiculous English by Cinderella, who attempts to boast about her intellect, shock the audience, who expects princesses to be innocent. Also, in contrast to the characters’ ridiculous behavior in the modern world, the attire and speech of the characters in the original fairy tale setting are also perfectly reproduced in the musical. In such settings, the audience is reminded of the times when they read those original fairy tales in their childhood. Thus, the audience would inevitably be reminded of how much they themselves and the characters have changed since their childhood. By noticing the characters’ desires to become wealthier and to elevate their social status, audience members who pursue similar objectives in their life will sympathize with the characters. As the journey of the two dwarfs proceeds, the dwarfs realize what is truly important in their life. They realize that love holds more value than higher social status or material affluence. The musical thus reminds audience members who are caught in strenuous circumstances about how love is indispensable to them. Although the musical play Dwarfs draws the audience’s attention with the lascivious jokes at the beginning, it eventually gives a heartwarming message to the audience in the end.
The charming features of Dwarfs
Astonishingly, the Dwarfs is the graduate work of a playwright named Lee Ji-hyun and a composer named Hwang Mi-na. Although this musical is their debut piece, the musical has been highly acclaimed by critics for presenting distinctive characters in a way that breaks the conventional storylines of fairy tales and for its effective use of props. Premiered last year, Dwarfs drew 18,000 audience members in two months. One of the factors that makes the musical appealing is that the stage setting and music of the Dwarfs match very well the theme and setting of the story. In order to highlight the fact that the musical is based on fairy tales, a huge book is installed at the back of the stage. The story of the musical unfolds as a page of the huge book is turned over, which makes the audience anticipate the next scene even more. Additionally, once in a while, instead of featuring a real actor on the stage, a video clip, such as the scene that depicts dwarfs turning into humans, is played on one of the pages in the huge book. Therefore, the musical is played out without any interruptions, which enables the audience to be continuously absorbed in the musical.
The background music also blends well with the characters’ situation, which helps the audience engage with the story. Hwang stated that, “I wrote the song to emphasize the situations characters in the scenario have to face, and it might be the reason why the songs in the musical received good reviews.” Likewise, the musical numbers in Dwarfs are neither flashy nor splendid, but rather consist of simple and addictive melodies. Such tunes perfectly fit with the situation of the characters and accentuate the circumstances surrounding them. For example, the song “Likes attract likes”, which ridicules the dwarfs’ low social status, perfectly fits with the dwarfs’ situation when the princesses are not interested in them. Even after the show, the melodies in the musical are so addictive that they float in one’s head.
* * *
People in the modern world may think that fairy tales do not have a place in their lives anymore. However, by inviting people in to the lewd world of modern fairy tales, the musical Dwarfs will not only cast audience members’ mind back to their childhood but also make the hall full of laughter with its suggestive jokes and bitter satire. Indeed, the audience will start with laughter but will be truly moved to tears by the end.
Date: Jan. 26, 2016~June 26, 2016
Price: \40,000 (60% discount on social commerce)
Place: Daehak-ro, TOM