Singer Ock Joo-hyun has faced some fairly nasty criticism in her relatively short life. But she’s managed to rise above it all while also building a career as one of the best emerging musical theater actresses in the nation.
Over the past five years, the 30-year-old former lead singer of the girl group Fin.K.L. has consistently received positive reviews for her performances in musicals such as “Chicago” and “Cats.”
She is currently starring in the Korean version of “Aida.” But the performance run, like her career, has not always been smooth.
One “Aida” performance was cancelled in January, when Ock lost her voice for a night. Although the show was cancelled for just a day, many netizens said Ock was selfish for wanting to play the title role without an alternate for the length of the three-month run.
“I’m not always adored, you know. I think that’s the reason why I’ve become somewhat immune to all of the criticism and scandals that have arisen around me,” Ock said during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo conducted right after the Jan. 23 show was cancelled.
Before becoming a musical theater star, Ock was a frequent target of the tabloids, which reported on her dramatic weight loss and the succession of plastic surgeries she underwent to transform herself from ordinary to beautiful.She became the subject of anti-Ock fan clubs and harsh criticism about her extreme transformation, in part because of how she looks but also because she has what some would call a healthy ego.
Nevertheless, Ock has remained persistent about her career goals while still managing to be at peace with herself, which is precisely how she got where she is today.
Here are excerpts from the interview with her.
Q. What happened on Jan. 23?
A. My health had been fine up to that point. Although I’d suffered a mild case of the flu after working on [the television drama] “The Musical” it wasn’t serious. And I was fine during the first act on the day “Aida” was cancelled. It all happened during the second performance of the day at the beginning of the second act when I was about to start singing. Suddenly my voice went mute. I felt so lost, and for a moment I thought it was because of the snacks I’d eaten during intermission. It was the most confusing moment I’ve had in all my years in the theater.
Was that the reason why the show was cancelled that day?
Yes. I was taken to the emergency room after the matinee performance because I was worried about my voice, but the doctor who examined me said that nothing was wrong. So I was absolutely mortified when I lost my voice during the evening performance because all I could do was squeak and I didn’t know why.
I felt extremely sorry for all of the people who had come to see the musical that day and for the production company. So when it became clear that I had lost my voice, I went on stage and apologized for not being able to perform. After that I sat in the dressing room for two hours. I was speechless. Literally.
But my voice fully recovered the next day. Thinking back, the incident made me realize how important and serious a musical is. Although it was a painful experience, I will use it to motivate me to become a better actress.
What is your view on the negative comments from netizens regarding your decision to play the role without an alternate?
I try not to look at articles or reviews while I’m working on a musical or other project. I’ve realized I can lose my balance if I continue to be bothered by all the comments online. My goal is to not be overly confident in myself or let my acting get in the way of the story.
Of course, the cancellation was entirely my fault, but it seems inappropriate to respond to every single complaint directed at me.
My point is that people who know something about musical theater would probably not be critical of my decision to play the role without double casting it. It is common for a single actor to play a role throughout the run of a large-scale musical overseas and Disney, which originally produced “Aida,” wanted the musical to be cast that way.
Do you have any regrets about the cancellation?
For me, it’s not productive to think about the mistakes I’ve made in the past. Rather than be frustrated with myself, I prefer to learn from my mistakes and put my energy into being a better actor. This is much more beneficial for me and for “Aida.”
Your first musical was in 2005, also “Aida.” How have things changed for you since then?
At first I was overanxious about memorizing lines and stage directions, which kept me from building my character. But now I feel I have a much better grasp of my role as an actress. For that, I am grateful to the mentors I’ve had over the past five years. I’ve learned a lot of valuable things from watching them rehearse. Through them, I realized that a great performance is a product of teamwork and harmony.
Do you have any advice for the new generation of singers who are making their way into musical theater?
I want to tell them that I also had a tough time initially. Through my five years of experience on the stage, I’ve realized the importance of restraint. An actor should also be able to move an audience without being overly emotional.
How do you manage to hit the high notes in “Aida”?
Some songs can actually be sung at a lower pitch. But I prefer to go for the high notes because I feel that confronting challenges helps me improve as a singer. That’s my personality. Once you succeed in reaching the high notes, it builds your self-esteem and enables you to challenge yourself further.
*“Aida” runs until March 27 at the Seongnam Arts Center Opera House. Performances are at 8 p.m. from Monday to Friday, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from 40,000 won to 120,000 won. Go to Imae Station, Bundang line, exit 1. Call (02) 1544-1555 or visit www.snart.or.kr.
For all the people who are like "Nugu?" Ock Juhyun was a former Fin K.L. member along with Lee Hyori (obviously the most irrelevant one now), Sung Yuri (mostly acting these days) and Lee Jin (I believe she's a regular on a variety show now). A long time ago she also released a yoga video and now she's doing musicals as you can see. She's also a good friend to SNSD, especially Jessica, and she told them to go date without telling their company lol.