Se7en, a K-pop star whose fortunes seem to have faded recently, hopes to turn things around when he makes a debut in a stage musical production later this month.
Using his real name Choi Dong-wook for the first time since its debut as a singer in 2003, the 30-year-old will star in a highly anticipated rerun of "Elisabeth," slated to open on June 13 at Blue Square in Itaewon, Seoul.
Choi's role, Der Tod, or Death, is not a lead character, but its sexy, mysterious appeal, rock numbers and powerful dance are among the highlights of the show.
"He's going to have a great sex appeal for the ladies in the audience. He has a great sense of his body and the way he moves. ... He's always great on stage," director Robert Johanson said of Choi in a teaser clip uploaded on YouTube. EMK Musical, the show's local production company, said Sylvester Levay who composed scores of the musical also praised Choi after listening to a recording of him signing one of the numbers of Der Tod, saying, "Simply fantastic."
"Elisabeth" is crucial for Choi in more ways than one.
In the early 2000s, the singer was a big shot in K-pop and the face of YG Entertainment under which he debuted. But since he enlisted to the army to do the mandatory military service and became embroiled in a widely publicized scandal over massage parlour visits, suspected as a front for adult entertainment, he has been largely absent from the K-pop limelight.
The upcoming musical is his first project since his military discharge last December and parting ways with his long-time agency YG Entertainment earlier this year.
Adding more pressure to this is that the role had been impressively played in previous productions by fellow K-pop singers Kim Jun-su of boy band JYJ and solo artist Park Hyo-shin.
Kim, in particular, received rave reviews for his part in the musical's Korean premiere in 2012 and its 2013 rerun. It was with this role that he took home the "Best Actor" trophy in Korea's equivalent of the Tony Award and firmly established his top-star status in the local musical field.
Park, who shared the role with Kim in 2013, has also risen significantly since then and is currently starring as the Phantom in the musical of the same name.
"It would be a lie to say I don't feel any pressure, because such great (actors) had portrayed this role before me. But I am actually feeling excited and looking forward to it, rather than feeling anxious. I will do my best to show the audience Se7en's own version of Der Tod," Choi said.
An Austrian show with the book and lyrics by Michael Kunze and music by Sylvester Levay, "Elisabeth" tells the tale of an Austrian empress and her growing obsession with death as her life progresses. It will be held from June 13 to Sept. 6 at Blue Square.
Se7en's first performance is slated for 2 p.m. on June 14.