The Korea Herald


[Books News] From page to stage, contemporary bestsellers leap from bookshelves to spotlight

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Feb. 3, 2024 - 16:01

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Three contemporary literary bestsellers are set to undergo a spectacular transformation this year as they move from the page to the stage.

Embracing new genres such as musicals, music dramas and theater productions, these adaptations offer original fans a fresh and enjoyable avenue to experience the stories.

Cha Ji-yeon (left) and Shin Sung-rok star in the musical Cha Ji-yeon (left) and Shin Sung-rok star in the musical "The Old Woman with the Knife." (Page1)

‘The Old Woman with the Knife’

In a much-anticipated adaptation, Gu Byeong-mo’s bestselling noir novel “The Old Woman with the Knife” is making its theatrical debut as a musical at the Hongik Dahangno Art Center in Jongno-gu. The production, directed by Lee Gina, is scheduled to run from March 15 to May 26.

The narrative revolves around Hornclaw, a 65-year-old assassin nearing retirement. Having devoted more than four decades to the cutthroat world of contract killings, Hornclaw was renowned for her sharp and flawless execution of assignments.

But she is finally beginning to slow down, physically and emotionally, her only company being an equally aging dog, Deadweight. The story takes a gripping turn after, in her last assignment, she faces an unexpected threat that could be her own bloody end.

Musical actors Cha Ji-yeon and Koo Won-young are double-cast for Hornclaw, while Shin Sung-rok, Kim Jae-uck and Noh Yun are triple-cast for the role of Bullfight, who crosses paths with Hornclaw in his youth and becomes fascinated by death.

The English edition of the novel, translated by Chi-Young Kim, was published in 2022.

'A Thousand Blues' (left) by Cheon Seon-ran (Hubble) 'A Thousand Blues' (left) by Cheon Seon-ran (Hubble)

Two adaptations of sci-fi ‘A Thousand Blues’ to premiere

Two adaptations of the science fiction novel “A Thousand Blues” by Cheon Seon-ran are set to premiere this spring. Presented by two separate national theater groups, each adaptation promises a unique experience -- one through a play and the other through a dance drama.

The novel, which catapulted Cheon into the limelight after securing the Korean Science Literature Award in 2019, unfolds in a not-so-distant future where humanoid robots have become an integral part of daily life. It addresses the emotional struggles and sense of isolation experienced by individuals grappling with the rapidly evolving pace of the world -- including Colly, a humanoid jockey, who faces disposal after deliberately falling from a horse named Today, during a game, to protect it.

The National Theater Company of Korea is taking the lead with the play adaptation, scheduled for an April premiere. Under the direction of Jan Han-sae, who participated in a seven-month workshop themed around "Science and Art" hosted by the NTCK, the play will delve into a theatrical metaverse where the boundaries between the virtual and the reality blur, incorporating motion capture and three-dimensional sound technology.

The Seoul Performing Arts Company has also chosen "A Thousand Blues" as their premiere project for this year, offering a fresh interpretation in collaboration with playwright Kim Han-sol. The dance drama production is slated to be staged at the CJ Towol Theater at the Seoul Arts Center from May 12 to May 26, inviting audiences into a world where the essence of the novel is brought to life through the medium of dance and drama.

A scene from the music drama A scene from the music drama "Uncanny Convenience Store" (Project Group Jiwoo)
Covers of Kim Ho-yeon's two-volume novel series Covers of Kim Ho-yeon's two-volume novel series "Uncanny Convenience Store" (Namu Bench)

‘Uncanny Convenience Store’

Kim Ho-yeon's million-selling "Uncanny Convenience Store” has undergone a transformative adaptation into a music drama, captivating audiences in open performances in Daehangno since April 2023.

According to the publisher Namu Bench, the two-volume series sold a combined 1 million copies in 2022. It is the third to do so since 2020, following Lee Mi-ye’s fantasy series “Dollargut Dream Department Store” and Sohn Won-pyung’s coming-of-age novel “Almond.”

The first volume hit bookshelves in April 2021 and the second volume in 2022. The show is based on the first volume.

“Uncanny Convenience Store” begins with Dokgo, a homeless man living in Seoul Station. He finds a wallet belonging to an elderly woman and the story unfolds as he works the night shift at her small convenience store in an old Seoul neighborhood.

With publishing rights in 11 languages sold to 13 countries including Japan, China, Vietnam, Russia and Portugal, translated editions have already hit the shelves in Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

HarperCollins has acquired the English rights and plans for a drama series are currently in progress.