Jane Bergère featured by Korean News Agency Newsis
Broadway Producer Jane Bergère "Korean Musical Industry has bright future"
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[Seoul=Newsis] Reporter Jina Kang = "Korean musicals have made huge progress. I believe the Korean musical market has a bright future."
Producer Jane Bergère, who has produced Kinky Boots and Beetlejuice which our audiences are familiar with, expressed high hopes for the Korean musical industry. We met on November 25th at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul where she was attending the first K-Musical Market.
"I've learned a lot about Korean musicals, and I'm very interested in bringing them to the United States. I believe international and Korean producers attending can better the musical market, build and maintain close relationships." she said.
The International K-Musical Market which closed on November 26th was hosted to expand a stable musical production environment from ideation, development to international distribution encompassing investment and international distribution. The event was hosted by Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Arts Management Service.
The licensed show Beetlejuice, which Ms.Bergère produced, was the talk of town when it landed in Korea this July, 2 years after its Broadway launch. "Beetlejuice has a theme that many can empathize with, plus it is the creation of well known Director Tim Burton so I thought it would do well." said Ms.Bergère.
Domestic audiences are used to Broadway/West End original productions or licensed productions touring Korea. But it is difficult to find productions traveling in the opposite direction. With the rapid growth of the Korean musical market, there is higher demand for Korean musicals to reach international audiences. When asked the formula for a competitive edge to do so, she says nobody can guarantee success and highlighted the importance of empathy from the audience's.
[Seoul=Newsis] On November 24th, Producer Jane Bergère presented at a K-Musical Market panel at the Seoul Arts Center Conference Hall on the future of international musical markets.
She emphasized that "there is no guarantee that a show from abroad will be a hit in Korea, nor for a Korean hit to do well abroad."
"It's important to understand the sentiment. When bringing a Korean show abroad the elements that made it a domestic success should be fully understood then well adapted to the market it is heading to. A topic or theme that all can empathize with is key. For instance, Kinky Boots and Fiddler on the Roof discuss friendship between two men or fatherhood and family which are all themes that people can relate to."
As for highlights of Korean musicals she said "The actors are great singers and really pour out their emotions on stage. It is remarkable." Compared to Broadway where comedies, spectacles and grand/majestic shows do well, she thought musically and emotionally charged shows seem preferred (in Korea).
Albeit the large quantities of shows produced, she mentions that the production and investment model is unstable. On the 26th, the Korea Musical Producers Association was launched by musical producers with the intention to nurture a reasonable production system to strengthen the musical industry.
Ms.Bergère was surprised at the different investment model compared to the stable model of Broadway. "Chunsoo Shin, CEO of OD Musical Company explained that Korean musicals often open the show before it is fully capitalized which suprised me and my fellow visiting producers colleagues." she said.
[Seoul=Newsis] Musical Beetlejuice had its first licensed run abroad in South Korea this past July. 2021.07.07. (Picture = courtesy of CJ ENM) firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms.Bergère explained that "It's great if there is profit, but it was surprising to think who would take the responsibility in case there are none. In New York a show cannot open unless fully capitalized, which is a much more stable structure."
But even Broadway knelt down to the COVID19 pandemic as it swept the world. Ms.Bergère said "Everything stopped. All staff, actors, everyone related to the theater couldn't get paid. People seriously thought about what to do for a living." and added "Noboday on Broadway ever thought Broadway could completely close."
Beetlejuice was one of the shows running on Broadway at the time. In March 2020 the theater doors closed and actors and staff had to stay home. But the set remained on the theater stage.
With a gloomy expression she recalled "When that happen we thought a few weeks, maybe a few months at most. It was mid March and we would say we'll be back in May, in May we said we'll be back in July, and in July we said we'd be back in September."
"We couldn't move the set nor open the theater. We had to keep paying for the theater since the set was there, then when summer came we had to move the set since another show was coming in soon. The set was moved to a warehouse, then moved to the current theater but that entire process was extremely costly."
Ms.Bergère began her career as an actress and singer then produced Metamorphoses on Broadway which kicked off her producing career. "At the time we had a four-foot swimming pool on stage which was unique. This was right after 9/11 took place so the society was in a slump, and the audience had a cathartic experience watching and the show was very well received."
Producer Jane Bergère won 8 Tony Awards and 1 Olivier Award, and produced over 50 musicals as the artistic director in Darien, CT. Since Metamorphoses she has produced over 30 shows including Beetlejuice, Kinky Boots, Hello Dolly, Angels in America and War Horse.
Ms.Bergère said "Korean producers are working hard and coming up with a lot of creative ideas. I'm sure we can create some great shows if representatives from both cultures combine forces. I've had a great experience working together and would like to continue doing so."
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