Death Note, the unexpected gravy train franchise that has produced an anime, movie, live drama, has now expanded to musicals. This is not new news to hardcore fans – the Japanese show premiered earlier in April and the Korean version followed in May. The Broadway counterpart, depending on which source you sought, may be coming soon (there are demo tapes of the English soundtracks), or may not be coming at all (those tapes were then removed from the official site).
When I first learned that Death Note would be made into a musical, I thought it must be a joke. It’s like one of those abominations that shouldn’t have ever existed, if not for the funniness of demand meeting supply. Fans of the franchise still lusts for more material almost a decade later, and which company ever says no to money?! I was content to close my eyes (and ears) to this farce, … until I heard Light’s song “Death Note” by Kwang Ho Hong. Check it out below:
After watching that, my first reaction was, “Who is this Kwang-Ho Hong, and why have I never heard of him before?! Cue Google. Kwang Ho broke out in 2009, staring as the titular character in Jekyll & Hyde, the youngest musical actor to ever do so. He was 27. A year later, he starred as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, becoming the youngest to sing the role again. His career continues with several roles the average Joe might have heard of before, like Don Quixote, Quasimodo and most recently Thuy in Miss Saigon, the West End (London) production. Anyways, my mystical fortune-telling ball says that this guy will do great things…so keep an eye on him chaps.
The person starring as “L” is much more familiar to me, an age-old follower of Kpop. JYJ’s Kim Junsu has become quite a musical star since the contentious split in DBSK. Granted, it’s been a long time since I watched him star and receive critical acclaim as Mozart in his debut musical, but even I didn’t expect the dramatic improvement in acting and singing skill that Junsu exhibited in Death Note. Junsu has always been very serious about his work, and his singing and performance were superb in DBSK, but guys, he came from a boyband!! KPOP idols sell faces and personalities, and sadly, talent often falls to the side. Kwang Ho is super amazing but he’s a professional musical actor!! Junsu just continues to boggle my mind. Watch “The Game Begins” below. I’m not necessarily a fan of the scratchy L voice, but the vocal skill required deserves credit.
Finally, the Japanese vs. Korean version debate. I haven’t watched either in person, but comparing them from online clips, I must say I’m quite disappointed in the Japanese version. I had hoped for much more, considering that Death Note is Japanese – the original should always be a bit more special. Aside from the fact that the Japanese cast look more like what the manga characters are described to be like, the Korean musical just seems better on all fronts. Watch a comparison and decide for yourself:
I am crossing my fingers that an English version arrives. It might only have a fifth of the amazingness of the Korean musical …. but I would still pay to see it. What can I say? I’m one of those Death Note fans still lusting for material a decade later…