The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Jung Sung-hwa on challenge of playing Quasimodo

By Park Ga-young

Published : March 13, 2024 - 15:43

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Musical actor Jung Sung-hwa (Mast International) Musical actor Jung Sung-hwa (Mast International)

Jung Sung-hwa, a comedian-turned-musical actor, has been synonymous with the character of Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun in the hit musical “Hero,” which was also adapted into a film in 2022.

He is also remembered by many for memorable roles like Jean Valjean in the musical “Les Miserable” or Daniel Hillard in “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

Taking the role of Quasimodo in “Notre-Dame de Paris,” the 20-year veteran of musicals hopes people can forget about his previous roles.

“I think it is the responsibility of actors to continuously challenge themselves, even if they have a representative work," Jang told reporters during an interview last week.

The role of Quasimodo, a deformed bell-ringer who lives in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, entails physical strength as he has to perform bent at his waist while puckering his lips. It is physically challenging, but that is not the biggest of the problems, according to Jang.

"In the beginning, there was a comment that my version of Quasimodo is clear and beautiful and that review made me think again,” Jung said. This is because he believes that it is important to convey a strong sense of the image of ugliness and arouse compassion for Quasimodo.

As Quasimodo, he also wants to try incorporating narrative well into songs he sings, because “in the case of French musicals, there is a focus on artistic aspects rather than the narrative."

Taking on the role of Quasimodo also means that he is finally realizing a dream of his. He recalled being deeply impressed by his first encounter with the musical and wanting to perform the role himself. It was more than 15 years ago, at the early stage of his musical career, which began accidentally.

Jung Sung-hwa as Quasimodo in the musical Jung Sung-hwa as Quasimodo in the musical "Notre-Dame de Paris" (Mast International)

The 49-year-old said his encounter with the world of musical theaters came at a low point of his life. Electricity was cut because he didn't pay his electricity bills, and he had taken on a part-time job to make ends meet. Just then, a musical producer recruited him for the musical “I Love You” in 2003.

"I cannot forget people applauding after the first performance, and I thought I would live for this. And it is addictive and it motivates me - I never tire of it," Jung said when asked about his motivation for the past 20 years as a musical actor.

The Korean production of the musical “Notre-dame de Paris,” which returned after six years for its seventh run, runs until March 24 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts before embarking on a nationwide tour, performing in Busan, Daegu, Sejong and Icheon through May.

For the role of Quasimodo, Jung, Yang Joon-mo and Yoon Hyung-Ryul alternate.

“Yoon Hyeong-ryul, who has performed the role over 300 times, is an actor with accumulated know-how. Yang Jun-mo, a rare baritone vocalist for musicals, is very intelligent, and you can feel compassion in my version of Quasimodo,” Jung said, asking the audience to check out the musical. “I will strive to improve until the end of the tour.”