Broadway team to stage Mata Hari musical in Seoul

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Broadway director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun has teamed up with some of the biggest names in the musical business, including composer Frank Wildhorn, to tackle the splendorous and mysterious tale of Mata Hari, one of the world's most notorious female spies, in a new musical.

The South Korean audience will be the first to watch the work.

"What's great about Mata Hari is that people think they know her story, but I think there are a lot of variations depending on whose book you read," said Calhoun during an interview in Seoul. "So it was fun for us to coalesce from all of those books into what we thought were the highlights of her life."

The infamous Margaretha MacLeod, better known by her stage name Mata Hari, was an exotic Dutch dancer who was accused of being a German spy in France during World War I. Convicted of espionage, she was executed by firing squad in France, but whether she was really a spy remains a mystery to this day.

The Mata Hari musical has already been several years in the making.

Korean musical company EMK commissioned Wildhorn and Calhoun - close friends who have worked side by side in Broadway for decades - to work on the show.

"I think it is all about the journey of Mata Hari discovering her true self and all of the things that happen to her on that journey," Calhoun said. "There's a lot of mystery and intrigue in her life, and I think a lot of the fun for the Korean audience will be discovering all the secrets when they see the show.

"Writing is rewriting. It took us several drafts to really figure out what that story is about. There's no substitute for time, but I think we finally have something extraordinary, hopefully unlike anything anyone has seen before in Korea," he added.

Calhoun made his directorial debut in Broadway with the 1994 revival of Grease, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Choreography. His 2012 production of Disney's Newsies landed eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Director Of A Musical.

"For me it's exciting to be part of this cultural phenomenon of musicals in Korea because it's a relatively new art form here and I am really happy that this is a world premiere," said Calhoun.

"I don't really know about the different expectations of audiences. I just think that if it's good, it'll be universally accepted so I hope that's the case of this."

The world premiere of the Mata Hari musical was originally set for Nov 20 at Charlotte Theater in Seoul, but has been postponed to early 2016, EMK said.