Highly anticipated, sell-out Korean non-verbal musical ‘NANTA (Cookin’)’ is coming to Singapore this June and The Seoul Story had the opportunity to interview the mastermind – producer Mr Seung-whan Song and the energetic crew members of the show! Read on to find out more:
Mr Seung-whan Song, producer of NANTA (Cookin’)
Q: How did you come up with the idea to combine Salmunori, comedy and culinary skills for NANTA (Cookin’)’?
A: I wanted to connect people from all over the world and let them have a peek into the Korean culture. As Korean was not easily understood by people outside of Korea, I decided to use rhythm, beats and tunes to tell the story instead and thus NANTA was born. What better Korean tradition to showcase to the audiences than a wedding. I hope that people all over the world will continue to support NANTA and we will strive to constantly improve and update our performance with exciting content.
Q: What was the selection process for the performers like?
A: All NANTA actors are selected through auditioning. The production team and I look for energetic talents, enthusiasm, endurance and many other qualifications. However, the audition is not the end. The chosen applicants have to go through a training period of at least 6 months. When they seem to have mastered all the skills and acting, they do a run-through with the senior actors. The production team evaluates the performance and decides whether to extend the training period or to schedule the very first performance.
Q: Are there any interesting anecdotes from behind-the- scenes during preparation for NANTA (Cookin’)?
A: Among all the important factors that make up NANTA, the vegetables are like the main ingredients to the show. Whenever we have a performance scheduled abroad, usually the first thing we do when we arrive is check out the size of the vegetables at the grocery store. In some countries, the cucumbers are the size of our fingers and the cabbages are as small as grapefruits, which are not the appropriate sizes for NANTA. Therefore, we have to dig in and try to find the ones that are relatively big in size and suitable for NANTA.
Q: NANTA (Cookin’) is a nonverbal performance; what additional preparation do the performers have to put in to express the story via body language only?
A: All cast members have to go through at least six months of intense training before they are chosen to perform on stage. The training lasts for 12 hours every day from 10am to 10pm for the six months. The 12 hours are divided into two parts where the first 6 hours consists of acting (Drama class) and the second 6 hours consist of practicing rhythm and beats. Some actors even practice more than the official 12 hours to master the skills. Through the training, the cast learned to use different ways to express themselves such as using actions and music instead of verbal communication.
Q: NANTA (Cookin’) has won numerous accolades and has been performed at various locations all over the world. Did you expect the show to attract such a high level of interest and achieve so much success?
A: Although I cannot say that I “knew” that we would be able to make it to where we are today, I definitely had confidence in the content of NANTA. NANTA is a performance that had a concrete goal to reach the global audience. I really feel thankful for the support we have received so far and for the various achievements we have accomplished together.
- Manager – Tae Wan Kim
- Head Chef – Chang Hwan Ko
- Hot Sauce – Hye Jin Yun
- Sexy Guy – Ho Yeoul Sul
- Nephew – Dong Hoon Nam
Q: What are some things you look forward to when performing on stage?
A: The thing that we look forward to the most would be the audience. Each performance means interacting with a new audience. It is not easy to get the chance to meet new people so frequently, but we get to meet new people every day! One of the things that we look forward to the most these days is getting to meet the audience in Singapore!
Q: ‘NANTA (Cookin’)’ is performed both domestically and internationally. With all the travelling, how do you keep a balanced lifestyle?
A: We try to eat and live healthy. Keeping track of what we eat and making sure to get a certain amount of exercise each day is very important. As an actor, other than the ability to deliver entertainment through great acting and performance skills, we also believe that taking care of ourselves to always be in great condition is also an important part of our duties.
Q: What are some of the major differences between performing in Korea and overseas?
A: Of course that would definitely be the audience. The reaction of the audience varies from country to country. Although we meet a lot of foreign audiences in Korea as well, visiting the country for real and actually getting to meet the local audience is a whole new experience. There are also some minor differences, like the size of the vegetables. In some countries the size of the vegetables are so small that we have be buy some “extra veggies”. (haha)
Q: Do you guys make changes to the routine occasionally to keep the show fresh and interesting? What kind of changes do you make?
A: We are constantly observing what our audiences like or dislike in our performance to fine tune it and keep NANTA fresh. Over the years, new and exciting scenes have been added while some others have been tweaked or removed depending on our audiences’ preferences.
Q: If you could describe ‘NANTA (Cookin’)’ in just three words, what would it be?
- Manager – Tae Wan Kim: Kitchen, Rhythm, Love
- Head Chef – Chang Hwan Ko: Excitement, Laughter, Quenching
- Hot Sauce – Hye Jin Yun: Passion, Fun, Touching
- Sexy Guy – Ho Yeoul Sul: Cool, Happy, Enthusiasm
- Nephew – Dong Hoon Nam: Cabbages, Onions, Carrots
Q: Given a chance, what kind of other performance genres would you like to try?
- Manager – Tae Wan Kim: It would be great to try musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
- Head Chef – Chang Hwan Ko: I would love to try performance musicals, especially Cirque du Soleil.
- Hot Sauce – Hye Jin Yun: I really love dancing! If there is a performance that sketches the dances from K-Pop history, I would really love to be a part of the show.
- Sexy Guy – Ho Yeoul Sul: I’m interested in singing, so it would be great if I get the chance to perform in musicals.
- Nephew – Dong Hoon Nam: Any other genre would be great!
Q: Is there any special preparation routine for the performers prior to each live show?
- Manager – Tae Wan Kim: I usually massage my arms and wrist a lot. It’s kind of like the warm-up people do before going into the swimming pool. Before we go on stage, we need to do the “NANTA warm-up”. Oh, and another important thing is making sure to go to the bathroom before the show! (haha)
- Head Chef – Chang Hwan Ko: I also do some “NANTA warm-up” and I sometimes like to sit in the audience seat and look at the stage. I want to remind myself to think of NANTA in the shoes of the audience.
- Hot Sauce – Hye Jin Yun: During my beginning years, I spent a lot of time warming up to release the tension in my body. As time passes, the amount of time needed to warm-up decreases. These days I usually spend about 40 minutes to prepare myself for the show.
- Sexy Guy – Ho Yeoul Sul: As there are a lot of action scenes, I tend to focus on stretching a lot.
- Nephew – Dong Hoon Nam: I do a lot of mind control. Physically, NANTA actors are already quite prepared and fit, so I tend to focus more on my mentality.
Q: Give a shout out to your Singapore fans!
- Manager – Tae Wan Kim: Let’s have some REAL FUN!
- Head Chef – Chang Hwan Ko: Great to be back to Singapore! Meet you all at the theatre!
- Hot Sauce – Hye Jin Yun: I can’t wait to meet you guys! See you at the theatre!
- Sexy Guy – Ho Yeoul Sul: Thank you soooooo much!
- Nephew – Dong Hoon Nam: I ♥ Singapore!
NANTA (Cookin’) will be performing at Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore from 3-5 June 2016. For more information, please visit http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/nanta0616. We would like to thank Red Spade Entertainment and Press Kit for granting us this interview opportunity 🙂