Sung-through musicals (no spoken dialogue) work well in theme parks or tourist spots where visitors come from all over the globe. Not everyone speaks English or the location’s local language, so the actors have minimal lines and rely mostly on the musical performances, set production, and global pop culture references to string together the light story or premise of the play.
Korea’s Bibap is more than just a musical filler for the amusement park crowd. Sure, it was one of the stops of my group tour in Seoul, but it deserves a standing ovation and an extended global tour.
A musical that centers on Korea’s representative dish, Bibap made its debut in Seoul in 2009. The Iron Chef-meets-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-meets-Harold & Kumar story is simple: Two top chefs battle it out in the kitchen with their team in hopes of winning the approval of the audience. They whip out four dishes—sushi, pizza, chicken noodle, and of course, bibimbap. How they go about the contest is where the cast’s multi-level skills—and a little audience participation—come in. There is hardly any spoken dialogue. With the help of beatboxing, b-boying, singing, live food presentations, and lots of crazy antics, the 80-minute show is worth every won (60,000 won for VIP and 50,000 for regular tickets).
The characters bring their own distinct flavor to the show. According to soompi.com, the cast trained for two years before launching their debut show, and would rehearse for 10 hours a day pre-debut and two hours daily post-debut.
The high-energy show was so flawlessly choreographed that for a moment it felt like I was watching a CGI animation and not a live performance. I was so impressed that I wish they’d bring the show to the Philippines. I heard they took the show briefly to Singapore in 2012 and are now on an open-run in Korea. Since the pan-Asian entertainment industry is growing (Remember Channel V’s girl group, Blush, and AXN Asia’s The Kitchen Musical?), this delicious musical has a potential to cook up a storm in its neighboring countries.
If you happen to be visiting Korea as you read this, please book a ticket. Even if you aren’t a fan of musicals, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the beatboxing, b-boying and belting members of the cast. A little tip: If you’d like to be one of the audience participants, book the front seat and don’t be afraid to raise your hand.
Bibap runs daily at the Cinecore Bibap Theater, B2F Cinecore Building, Samildaero 386, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea 110-111. For schedule and ticketing, visit bibap.co.kr.