As I sit down to gather my final thoughts about the musical 바람의나라 (The Kingdom of The Winds), and in particular, G.O’s gentle nuanced performance, I truly do not know where to begin. Before I stepped into the theatre to watch it unfold real-time, I did a little background check of the story so I would have some idea going in. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the powerful and emotional interpretation brought to the stage by the Seoul Arts Group or the tender, heart-wrenching performance by G.O in the role of Prince Hodong. G.O continues to shock and amaze me.
A Kingdom of Uncertainty
Having its foundation in manhwa and translated in a 36 episode television drama, as well as in a previously produced award-winning successful musical, I was very curious to see the current musical theatre interpretation of 바람의나라 (The Kingdom of the Winds). Likewise, many theatre aficionados were curious to see if K-pop artist G.O would be able to interpret the very important role of Prince Hodong in the manner of a seasoned musical actor in a prestigious theatre company. If they had any doubts, I am certain those doubts were laid to rest the moment he took the stage and, even more so after he sang his first musical number in the show.
There were many characters in this musical and all were integral to the story. I am not going to go into all of them as my main focus here is on G.O.^^
Steeped in Korean history and sprinkled with some fantasy, The Kingdom of The Winds is a story about a family wrestling with prophecies that may or may not come to pass. But in the wake of that, tragic and consequential decisions are made that alter the future and survival of the family, as well as the kingdom.
This was a time when families were torn by betrayal and suspicion and neighboring kingdoms at constant war and dispute. King Muhyul was a fierce warrior whose drive to conquer by means of force really stemmed (in my opinion) from the helplessness he felt after his one true love, Yeon, died.
It was as if he had nothing better to live for so why not just effectuate war around himself and expand his kingdom. There was nothing soft about Muhyul. He was edgy, aggressive and stern.
He buried his true heart beneath layers of anger and sadness. Not even a second marriage could ease or mend his heart. In fact, he wanted nothing to do with Queen Iji.
She came into the marriage wanting wealth and power but instead fell helplessly in love with Muhyul but would be unable to win his heart – for when Yeon died, Muhyul’s heart died.
As a war mongering king, Muhyul could not embrace the fact that his son, Hodong, lacked the strength, will, fortitude and desire to be a conquering warrior like himself. He repeatedly tells Hodong that a weak-hearted person cannot be king.
In his attempt to become stronger and be stronger, Hodong turns his back on his spirit animal, the Phoenix, and it is shot dead by his father. On a fantasy level, to lose one’s spirit guide must be a loss of irreversible damage. Even though Muhyul clearly tells Hodong (after he attempted to take the life of the Phoenix earlier), that their respective spirit animals are enemies, he still asks Hodong, ‘what have you given up’, meaning, what has this decision done?
An Innocent Boy in a Fragile Kingdom
Having had the wonderful opportunity to see G.O perform in Kingdom, I will say this: when he took the stage in this musical, he was no longer G.O of MBLAQ. No, he transformed both inside and out and became Prince Hodong.
A little boy filled with wonder hearing the story of his lineage:
Acknowledging the sacrifice his mother made so he could live:
Playfully frolicking with his spirit animal, The Phoenix:
Feeling the pain to his core when his Phoenix is shot (the first time) by his father:
Asking his father why his small heart is filled with so many tears and so much pain. And ultimately lamenting that he longs for a kingdom filled with peace:
But then…..asks for his sword in contemplation of emulating his father:
Rebuking the advice of his spirit animal, Hodong declares he WILL be like his father:
He WILL wield a sword like his father:
He WILL follow his father even at the expense of losing his spirit animal, his guide…the one being who truly knows his heart. The Phoenix tells Hodong that his father only loves war and wants to expand his kingdom, that he does not love Hodong:
The loving Phoenix tries to convince Hodong, but to no avail:
Hodong believes his father loves him and ultimately turns his back on his spirit animal and loses the one being that was his true protectorate:
And when it is too late, Hodong knows the consequence of his decision to allow his spirit animal to perish has now left him completely vulnerable and without any protection.
OMG….the feels this musical put me through!!!
Vulnerable and alone, Hodong eventually falls prey to a wickedly jealous, self-serving and selfish Queen Iji who accuses of him of slandering her. She brings her concerns to the King and arouses suspicion. The people of the kingdom know of Hodong’s true and gentle heart. They implore him to do something – to let it be known that she is wrong.
Hodong does nothing. He tells them, if I tell the King, then the sins of the Queen will be revealed. This would cause the King great sorrow. How then is that an act of piety towards the King? Hodong chose to be silent so that the King would not suffer.
Hodong, gentle, warm, loving, Hodong. Knowing no other way to right the wrong without causing great sadness, hurt and unhappiness to his father, Hodong commits suicide by impaling himself with a dagger. The closing scene is so very powerful as Hodong is left on the stage with the entire kingdom leaving him behind, walking towards the horizon.
The art direction in this musical was vibrant and visually spectacular. I particularly appreciated that the main characters were always lit in a specific color of light. Hodong was alway lit by a golden-yellow light. Like the sun, he signified the dawn and hope of a new day. His gentle spirit filled with the hope of a new and better kingdom, one filled with happiness and peace. It was the perfect choice of color for the luminous Hodong.
Yes…I am just a bit smitten with Hodong. Hodong was an innocent boy with big dreams. Unfortunately he was a victim of circumstances brought on by the choices of his father. He was a beautiful, gentle, loving soul trying to do what was right and just. G.O was a perfect fit for the role. His gentle and soulful voice coupled with the ability to go deep emotionally as an actor served Hodong so very well.
I am quite sure G.O walked away from this role (and that of Dongho in Seopyeonje) with a brand new group of fans both in the K-pop and musical theatre worlds. And for that, I couldn’t be more proud or happy for him.
As wonderful and delightful as he was as both Dongho and Hodong, one thing was for certain, after he took his final bow for the evening…..lovely G.O greeted his fans as the divinely gracious, humble, engaging and gregarious handsome man that we’ve come to know and adore.
I just love this guy!♥