K-drama The Sound of Magic takes the musical route

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
K-drama The Sound of Magic takes the musical route
Premiering today on Netflix, the six-episode The Sound of Magic stars Ji Chang Wook (Healer, Empress Ki) as Ri Eul, a mysterious magician who lives in an abandoned amusement park.

The Sound of Magic takes the musical route to tell the story about the interconnected fates of a mysterious magician who never wants to grow up, and two students forced to grow up fast by situations in life.

The six-episode Korean drama stars Ji Chang Wook as Ri Eul, a magician who lives in an abandoned amusement park; Choi Sung Eun as working student Yoon Ah Yi, who struggles to support herself and a sibling; and Hwang In Youp as the well-off, straight-A student Il Deung who is pressured to live up to parental expectations.

Based on the original webtoon Annarasumanara by Ha Ilkwon, the live-action version is directed by Itaewon Class director Kim Sung Youn. The series premieres on Netflix today, May 6.

During a virtual presscon and subsequent roundtable interview, director Kim shared that he was an instant fan of the webtoon when it was first published over a decade ago. When he acquired the rights some time later, the story touched him “in a different way than it had before.” For roughly seven years, he had been promising to turn it into a live-action series.

He was particularly drawn to the character of Ah Yi who gave up her dreams due to poverty. “I was very curious to see how that would resonate with the context of today. For example, for the character Il Deung, he has a scene where he asks, ‘Do you really need to dream? Is a dream necessary to have?’ And you know how in the past, we often emphasized needing to have a dream, to children. I feel like that’s what we lived through,” he said.

“But I remember watching a variety show where a superstar in Korea, Lee Hyori, came out and she mentioned to a child there, ‘You don’t have to try to be anything when you grow up, just be whatever you want.’ And that came as a very pleasant shock and got me to think, ‘What would really happen when we don’t want to be something? What if children grew up without having a specific dream? Is that so bad?”

He continued, “When I meet childhood friends or school friends, we often talk about, ‘Are we really adults? ‘Can we confidently say we’re truly grown-ups? Can we say that to our children?’ And I think that’s sort of the message that I would like to convey naturally (in the series). What does it mean to be a grown-up? What do we want our children to grow up to be? And what is a life that is more happy? I want anyone who watches the series to be able to talk about these things along with not just adults but with children as well.”

Chang Wook is joined by Hwang In Youp (True Beauty), who plays top student and rich kid Il Deung, during a musical number.

Since in the source material, there’s a lot of monologues, especially by Ah Yi, Kim sought how the story could be told without having the characters deliver too many lines. “And that’s what brought us to the music element,” he added.

Combining “music and magic” was another challenge altogether. “Actually, a fantasy music drama was not what I was reaching for, but it turned out to be a great fantasy music drama,” he shared.

He believes in the power of background music to enhance a scene, add depth to the emotions and push the story forward. But he also thought, instead of background music, why not have the actors perform numbers instead?

Based on the webtoon Annarasumanara by Ha Ilkwon, the liveaction version is helmed by Itaewon Class director Kim Sung Youn

“It looks like a music drama when you watch the featurette, but we don’t have that much music. Maybe just two numbers in one episode. But the whole point of having music is to show the emotions,” Kim said.

He also worked with a choreographer, but his instruction was not to make the choreography too “fancy or fantastical” but just enough to, again, help translate the characters’ feelings.

Same goes for scenes involving magic. He said, “I didn’t want just techniques or tricks. But through this medium of magic, I wanted to show the mysteriousness of Ri Eul or to express Ah Yi’s emotions more effectively.”

Choi Sung Eun (Beyond Evil, Start Up) plays struggling student Yoon Ah Yi, who starts to dream again after meeting Ri Eul.

He tapped the help of Korean illusionist Lee Eung Yeol. “He really liked the original webtoon so he told us that he could be of help to all of us,” he said.

“Lee Eung Yeol’s magic isn’t just about the techniques, but he makes sure that it really looks like it’s real. So, it’s really magical, it’s not just tricks, it’s really like fantasy, it’s like magic.” So much so, as he further noted, audiences might wonder whether Ji Chang Wook’s character is “just a trick magician or a real magician.”

It was also revealed during the press junket that the script, the songwriting, the guide-recording choreography, vocal lessons and all were completed simultaneously. Music director Park Sung Il said that he had never experienced a production process like it until The Sound of Magic.

Director Kim confirmed, “In the script, all the music scenes were left blank. There were no lyrics, no directions in terms of how the scene was going to look like. It was just completely up to the music director.

“From the music director’s perspective, you have to have a particular scene that inspires you to create that music. But this is a completely different kind of challenge. The music director, the choreography director, they’re all good friends, they’re actually the same age, and they were just given this huge question mark. Where do you even begin? And they expressed all of those difficulties and curiosities.

“In some scenes, the music director went ahead and created the music first. For example, for the merry-go-round, it wasn’t written in the script. But when we heard the music, you felt like this is definitely a scene where we need to have a merry-go-round. So, that’s how organically we worked together. That’s how the script was created.”

In retrospect, Kim admitted he didn’t know what he was signing up for when he took on the job as director. He credited the teamwork of the production people for making The Sound of Magic into a reality.

“This is really a full package. And everyone, in their professional regard, did their best and really poured their hearts and soul into the show,” he said.

Meanwhile, director Kim shared the casting process for the drama’s main trio of Ji, Choi and Hwang.

“I mean, look at them — they’re so great-looking. And when you meet them for the first time, it’s not so much about, are they a good fit for this particular role? But it’s more about do they have a certain something in them that will bring something to the character? I really tried to focus on those elements.

“For example, for Chang Wook, he has a boyish look about him, as well as a mysteriousness. He is really able to go to those dark ambiences as well, and I felt like that would really bring something really appealing and charming to the character Ri Eul.

“For Sung Eun, in front of a camera, there’s a sense of sadness that she carries, that she is able to carry on the screen. I felt like she’s the perfect fit for someone to bring out something — some of the layers that Ah Yi has.

“In Youp, he’s such a playful actor. The character Na Il Deung, he bluffs a lot, and he secretly has a crush on Ah Yi, but having In Youp play that role has brought another layer of charm to the character Il Deung.”

Director Kim expressed his gratitude to the cast members for agreeing to join the project. He also described their chemistry as “really stellar.”

“I believe that’s what has made the show what it is. We talk among the team about the characters, and while there are certain things you expect from the character, there’s always that level, that something, that only the actor can bring to the character. The unique charm, appeal of the character is only able to come to life when the actor takes on the role.”


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