Kim Junsu’s ‘Death (Tod)’ dominates the stage with his unique presence.
Whenever the Angels of Death with blonde hair and black wings dance their terrifyingly beautiful dance, ‘he’ will appear without fail. His sweet words of temptation with a dreamy whispered melody agitate and pierce through the listener’s heart. Like a devil, while his warm whisper ‘Only I can understand you’ is soaking through your cold and lonely heart, he steals your soul away.
The main focus in the story of musical ‘Elisabeth’ is the character Queen Elisabeth but unexpectedly, the one standing in the background of this story is ‘Death’. Having an unrestrained childhood but after a dramatic happening, Queen Elisabeth of Austria had her freedom snatched away and lived a life of a manipulated puppet. The fate of Elisabeth whose soul was tied up invisibly can be seen as a hanging marionette in a puppet show and the one who controls over the restrained soul of the Queen is indeed ‘Death’.
The composer of the musical, Sylvester Levay explained about ‘Death’ in an interview ‘A charming character who seduces the audience’. In addition, ‘He is so charming that he gives the audience a strong strength to shake off the fear of death.’ Sylvester Levay also shared a touching anecdote ‘There was a girl who was sick and afraid of death but after watching the musical, she gained back the desire to live a happy life.’ Just like what Sylvester Levay has said, the allure of ‘Death’ in this musical is fatal. How to portray such a character which is not human, beast, angel or even devil?! With the feet as fast as a hidden eagle and footsteps as sensual as a killer leopard, he comes closer and stabs his dagger to the vital point of the target.
While a beast moves its body in order to hunt for prey, ‘Death’ and his Angels dance their appealing dance in order to put the target’s forever love into Death’s hand. The fascinating dance between the party who seduces – ‘Death’ and the Angels of Death- and the party who tries to escape – Elisabeth- is paradoxically extremely beautiful and magnificent. Not only Elisabeth but even the audience fell for his dance.
Indefinable appearance is also an interesting point of the multicoloured ‘Death’. Particularly, the songs of ‘Death’ are also filled with various aspects. On the wedding day of Elisabeth and Joseph, he sings “Are you sincere with your choice? Your reverie about him is just an illusion”, then shouts out crazily “The last dance. My last dance. I will dance with you in the end. You are only mine” and shows the insane jealousy of a ‘man who fell in love’. However, while demanding Elisabeth’s son- Rudolf to rebel “What is there to hesitate. You are rescuing the world. Right now, this is fate. Only you can rescue this collapsing world”, he is an ‘evil’ who is playing with the hope of life.
The musical doesn’t build any restriction for ‘Death’. Coming from the depressing sensibility of Elisabeth, his symbolic presence also changes with Elisabeth’s state of mind; one moment, he would fill up her loneliness with love but the next moment, he desperately wants to set free every string of hope. He is a shadow who follows after Elisabeth endlessly. Also, it might be reasonable that he said to Elisabeth “Only I can understand you and give you the freedom”. ‘Death’ is no other than another self of Elisabeth that she invented in order to express the irresistible dark greed.
Being able to meet 3 different actors with 3 different colours of ‘Death’ on stage is another unconventional enjoyment in the musical ‘Elisabeth’. Having different personalities, Ryu Junghan, Kim Junsu and Song Changeui diversely interpret their own charming ‘Death’.
Specially, Kim Junsu’s ‘Death’ has received favourable comment from the audience and dominated the stage with his unique presence. Younger than other two actors, he has given an unexpected charming interpretation in response to the doubts about how he would portray a nonhuman character. Simply as a sensual and manly character, while forming a love triangle with the Emperor Joseph and Queen Elisabeth, he becomes a ‘dangerous being’ which is not woman, man, human or spirit and above that dangerous boundary, he reveals his deadly beauty.
Being neutral in between woman and man, sometimes in whispering high tone, sometimes in low tone, the seducing Kim Junsu goes back and forth in both sides and surprises the audience with his dual voice which creates a clever combination. Not belonging to any particular area, he added his unique sensibility into the bisexual allure of the transcendent ‘Death’ who attracts anything, and revived the appealing character.