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[Rookie of 2014] Musical actress Park Ji-yeon evolves with ‘Ghost the Musical’

Actress Park Ji-yeon. (KCMI)
Actress Park Ji-yeon. (KCMI)
Though “Ghost the Musical,” one of the most anticipated musicals of last year, has been grabbing attention for its star-studded cast ― including TV actor Joo Won and pop-singer Ivy ― it is in fact actress Park Ji-yeon who is making huge strides in her career with the show.

The 25-year-old actress is sharing the lead role with Ivy in the musical which opened in November, an adaptation of the 1990 hit romance movie “Ghost.” She won her first musical role ― in “Mamma Mia!” ― through an audition with a blank resume about four years ago.

Molly, the grieving girlfriend in “Ghost the Musical” whose murdered lover becomes a ghost, is Park’s fourth musical role following Sophie in “Mamma Mia!”, Go Mi-nyeo in Korea’s homespun musical “You are Beautiful,” and Eponine in last year’s Seoul run of Cameron Mackintosh’s “Les Miserables.”

Park, who majored in acting at the Seoul Institute of the Arts and performed in an amateur rock band before auditioning for “Mamma Mia!,” is said to have never watched a musical before turning 20.

She nabbed two Best Emerging Actress awards for her performance as Eponine in “Les Miserables” last year, one at the 2013 Musical Awards and the other at the 2013 Korea Musical Awards. Park was selected as Eponine after 10 sessions of the auditions, which went on for seven months and were all attended by the legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh.

Yoon Eun-ji of Seensee Company, the local producer of “Mamma Mia!” and “Ghost the Musical,” said Park did not seem to be very nervous though she had no experience in musicals when she auditioned for “Mamma Mia!” back in 2010.

Yoon remembers a particular moment in one of the audition sessions when Park was asked to somehow “seduce” one of the judges on the spot. Most of the other contestants danced with sexy movements, but Park surprised the judges by doing something that they did not expect.

“She calmly walked up to one of the judges and whispered something in his ear. He did not expect that at all, and was really impressed by the idea. I think she stands out among the actresses of her age, because she has this innate quality that makes her effortlessly original.”

Even before her first performance as Sophie in “Mamma Mia!”, Yoon said Park didn’t seem nervous at all. “The staff members were more nervous than she was,” Yoon said. “We would tell her things like, ‘If you ever forget your lines, pretend as if nothing happened and just move on.’ But she just didn’t seem to be affected by it. She remained calm and confident.”

Yoon said Park’s career is almost incomparable to other emerging actresses. “It’s hard to think of someone who one can actually compare Park to,” she said. “It’s very rare for an actress with no previous experience to secure three major roles in a row. And she really puts herself into her characters. Her characters are memorable.”

“Ghost the Musical” runs through June of next year.

By Claire Lee (