From K-Pop Teen Idol to Musical Star

By Bae Keun-min
Staff Reporter

Kim Tae-woo, takes his first solo venture with a role in a musical "Altar Boyz."

A group of actors, under the instruction of New York choreographer Christopher Gattelli, were working out some new dance moves last Monday afternoon.

It was the first dance lesson for the Korean rendition of the Broadway musical "Altar Boyz," which opens April 12. In the squad was singer Kim Tae-woo, 24, the youngest member of the now disbanded pop vocal group, g.o.d.

Gattelli and the cast seemed to click with each other on the very first day as they picked up the dance routines for three numbers in only eight hours ㅡ much faster than the choreographer expected. As the day wound up, Gattelli, his face brimming with satisfaction, suggested they cap it off with a souvenir group photo.

"It was not that difficult because I already knew most of the dance movements I learned today. They were more like performances and gestures related to the lyrics, different from jazzor ballet-based choreographs of general musicals. I learned them while performing for six years in g.o.d.," Kim, in an interview with The Korea Times, said during a break.

"But the weight I gained over the past 3-month break after g.o.d. disbanded, kept me from keeping up with the moves. I plan to lose some weight and get back in shape soon," he said.

For Kim, "Altar Boyz" is a debut in musicals but that does not mean he is new to the genre. During "g.o.d. the Last" concerts late last year, the band created and staged a small musical about how the band came to be.

"I wasn’t interested in musicals in the past. But singer Ock Joo-hyun, who is starring in the Korean rendition of Disney’s musical "Aida," told me she is having fun with it and I started thinking this may be a genre that I want to challenge," Kim said. Ock, a member of now defunct female K-pop group FiN.K.L., has been performing the title role in "Aida" since last August.

"I have received offers such as starring in TV dramas, hosting radio and TV shows. But I want to do something with music and stage performance, which I think I am addicted to," Kim said. "This musical is a story of a 5-member boy band and its style is also a lot like concerts, which works out well for me with my new challenge."

Kim, left, with fellow members of the now disbanded group g.o.d.

"Altar Boyz," is a musical spoof about a fictitious, Christian boyband from Ohio and episodes during their national tour. It premiered in New York in 2004, and Korea’s production is its first overseas production. Kim will play lead singer, Matthew.

The musical won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best off-Broadway Musical, and gained popularity with such songs as "Girl, you make me wanna wait" and "Jesus called me on my cell phone."

"I hope I will have the chance to be cast in musicals in the future. I would like to perform in ‘Beauty and the Beast" and ‘Jekyll and Hyde,"’ Kim said. "But I will focus more on my singing career."

These days, Kim is devoted to the musical around the clock as it will be his main showbiz activity before his obligatory military service in August, putting his career on hold for two years.

"I have lived such a busy life for the past six years, and during this military service I will have some time to think about myself and my career, which is good for me," Kim said.

He added, however, it is a bit distressing that he won’t be able to sing on stage, which he loves more than anything else. For that reason, he expressed his endorsement of a recent plan announced by the Defense Media Agency which is affiliated with the Defense Ministry.

According to the plan, the agency would move from the current volunteer-based system to a call-up system for entertainer soldiers, and run a separate unit whose main mission would be to promote military affairs through a television network or films. The proposal triggered criticisms on giving the privilege of a relatively easier service to entertainers such as actors and singers.

"I don’t know very much about it but it sounds good to me. I think the state can put a conscripted person in any type of position it thinks necessary," Kim said.

After completing his compulsory service, Kim said he will present his first solo album and, for sure, g.o.d.’s 8th album although the members belong to different agencies. "But colors of the two albums will differ. Mine will be filled with pop jazz and soul music, while the group album will be fun songs that everyone can sing along with."

Making inroads to overseas pop markets will also be visible, by himself or as a member of the boy-band, when he is equipped with appropriate foreign language capability, he added. Altar Boyz will take place from April 12 through May 21, at Chungmu Art Hall, near Sindang Station on subway line 6. Tickets range from 40,000-60,000 won. For more info, call (02) 501-7888.

[email protected]

03-12-2006 17:33