‘Life is Beautiful’ musical explores the meaning of love

GET ready to break out in song, with the premiere of the Korean musical film Life Is Beautiful on tvN Asia. The film, which is directed by Choi Kook-hee, tells the story of happily married couple Oh Se-yeon (played by Yum Jung-ah) and Kang Jin-bong (Ryu Seung-ryong).

When Se-yeon falls gravely ill, she asks Jin-bong to help her search for her first love from high school.

Although unhappy with his wife’s request, Jin-bong decides to honour her wishes. Through their journey together, the couple are reminded of the most glittering, beautiful moments of their lives.

In this transcript provided by tvN Asia, we hear from Director Choi, Ryu, Yum and Park Se-wan – who plays Se-yeon as a young woman – about their experiences working on this light-hearted and poignant film.

There were a lot of songs in the movie. What songs were memorable to you, or were hard to pull off during filming?

Ryu: “I like it that famous songs were included in the movie. My favourite is Unpredictable Life as it resonates with life and is touching. It can also be connected to acting and the movie in various ways. Some numbers were difficult as listening and singing were very difficult. Not a single number was easy. I didn’t realise Choi Baek-ho’s When I am in Busan was so hard to sing, it was the hardest for me. Among all the great jukebox songs, my wish-list song is People Change. I think songs like this are suitable as well.”

Yum: “None of the songs was easy for me as well. In the later part of the movie, As Time Goes By truly touched me. The hardest song was Lee Seung-chul’s Sleepless Night, which is too high-key for me to sing. The movie doesn’t have any songs by female vocals. So my wish list would be a song by a female singer.”

Park: “There aren’t really many options for me as I only sang one song in the movie. Unpredictable Life is so good. The song is memorable as it always encourages me. I came across the song 100m Before Her, the song reminded me of the younger moments and sentiments of the two main characters, so I thought the song will be a good choice to include.”

Director Choi, how were the songs selected for the movie?

Choi: There were so many songs for a limited number of choices. I didn’t choose them myself. The whole crew discussed which were the most suitable songs and we selected from 30-40 songs.

You competed with Oh Seong-wu as ‘Se-yeon’’s first love. What did you do to be a good contender?

Ryu: “I guess my weapons were my empathy and sense of humour. But seriously, Oh Seong-wu is a superb dancer, tall as a tower and has a small face. I can’t fight with him on that, so I choose the sense of humour.”

The jukebox musical genre is quite uncommon. How did you select the cast members for the film?

Choi: “Musicals requires good singing and dancing. Our superb cast put in a lot of effort for more than a year. They trained hard in vocals and choreography, which I am very appreciative of.”

None of you have much experience in musicals. What was it like doing this film?

Ryu: “Koreans love singing and have music in their blood. We just naturally sing and dance all the time, so I had pressure. But our movie has familiar, sing-along songs so I focused on delivering lines and the scenarios. We recorded the songs three times – first was an audio guide to play at the filming site, the second was a recording on-site, and lastly, we did the ADR after filming was completed. Singing every note well wasn’t easy, but it felt great accomplishing it.”

Yum: “Being in a musical was one of my biggest wishes. I was very excited to participate in this movie. Initially, I was full of confidence, but dancing and singing are actually very challenging. We lip-synced to the audio guide during filming but it wasn’t easy. Dancing erased the lyrics from my mind.”

Park: “I always thought I’d try a musical if I’m a good singer. So being a part of this movie was really meaningful. In my previous drama Dance Sports Girls (also known as Just Dance), I was confident I aced there. But I realised it was a big mistake while watching [Oh] Seong-wu [her Life is Beautiful co-star]. I felt sorry for making too many bloopers.”

Your chemistry in the movie was wonderful. What was it like to work together

Ryu: “In reality, we both have children, so it was easy to act like a married couple. I was a fan of Yum Jung-ah since the 1990s and admired her. I was blissful to act with her. Our chemistry while filming was explosive. She’s a star to me, but when we met on-site, she was very friendly. I was disarmed since then and we had so much fun filming.”

Yum: “I‘m a fan of Ryu Seung-ryong too, and watched his work Extreme Job several times. His comical acting was unique. He played Jin-Bong so naturally, it helped me to concentrate.”

Which scene was the most challenging?

Ryu: “Nothing was easy, but all is fun and meaningful. Expressing youth in this body was challenging (laughs). The Director inserted such a scene for theatrical amusement. Acting in the tone and speed as a young man was embarrassing for me but it turned out to be entertaining for the movie.”

Yum: “Acting young while dancing to the song Beautiful Woman was difficult for me. I send my utmost gratitude to the CGI team (laughs).”

Park: “I had a choreography which my upper and lower body must move separately, but it never worked out (laughs).”

Choi: “For me, it’s the final ballroom scene. It was cold and crowded with the ensemble, but Ryu Seung-ryong and Yum Jung-ah acted with a lot of passion and created the moving atmosphere together. While filming the two of them, the cast in the background was crying. That moment was most thrilling and memorable.”

You both played different periods of the same character’s life. Did you work out something together to align the unity between both of you?

Yum: “First of all, I would like to thank Park Se-Wan. I started filming first and she followed after. I saw her filming. She was just like me. I didn’t really help her. I’m grateful that she portrayed my youth with such excellence.”

Park: “Compliments I received at the site boosted my confidence. I researched senior Yum Jung-ah ’s smiles and laughs a lot. Rather than trying to copy her, I wanted to be her naturally so I was looking at her pictures often.”

What message do you hope to convey to the audience watching this movie?

Choi: “I directed this movie because the scenario reminded me of my mother. I think the movie is a story of our mothers. Life is Beautiful will remind you of your loved ones. It has specific time periods, so it should appeal more to those who have lived through that period.”

Life is Beautiful premieres Saturday, Feb 18 at 10pm on tvN Movies (Astro CH416 & Astro GO | unifi TV CH201 & unifi playTV | tonton).

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