The Korea Herald


Musical 'Frida' paints empowering story of Frida Kahlo

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Aug. 21, 2023 - 20:32

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Kim So-hyang plays Frida Kahlo in the musical Kim So-hyang plays Frida Kahlo in the musical "Frida." (Yonhap)

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is well-recognized for expressing pain through her art. Based on her life, the musical "Frida" sings of her experiences, painting her story just as vividly as her painting "Viva La Vida" (1954), meaning "Long Live Life" in Spanish.

Premiered in March 2022, the original production by the EMK Musical Company follows the life of Kahlo. The 110-minute show takes on the form of “The Last Night Show,” where Kahlo appears as a guest and reflects on some of the most significant moments from her past -- battling polio, surviving a bus accident, meeting her husband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, dealing his affairs and enduring miscarriage, all the while channeling her pain into art.

Musical actor Kim So-hyang, singer-songwriter Ali and actor Kim Hieora, who all play the role of Frida Kahlo in a triple casting, said that they want to portray the fiery passion of the artist who overcame unbelievable pain, during a press conference held at COEX Artium, in Gangnam-gu, Seoul on Aug. 10.

“The depth of pain Frida had to endure was beyond the level of what an ordinary person could bear,” said Kim So-hyang who has been with the production since its premiere.

“Nevertheless, everyone carries their own pain, and there came a point where I could relate my pain to Frida’s.”

Ali plays Frida Kahlo in the musical Ali plays Frida Kahlo in the musical "Frida." (Yonhap)

Singer Ali also said she admires Kahlo’s passion.

"There was a moment when my mindset changed while working on this show. In the song ‘Corset,’ there's a lyric that goes, ‘Brush off complaints.’ I think this line vividly captures Kahlo’s resolute determination to overcome her pain.”

Kim Hieora who has recently gained public attention through the series “The Glory” and “The Uncanny Counter 2,” is an experienced actor with over a decade of experience on the musical and theatrical stage.

“I am thrilled to return to the stage and to play a character that I admire so much,” Kim said.

“There’s not much difference between acting in a drama series and a musical. I suppose, (on screen) there is editing, whereas the stage is live. … On stage, the audience can see every tear and bead of sweat.”

Kim Hieora plays Frida Kahlo in the musical Kim Hieora plays Frida Kahlo in the musical "Frida." (Yonhap)

Choo Jung-hwa, the writer and director of the production, said, “What I most wanted to do for Frida was to give her beautiful shoes (since she couldn't wear heels due to polio).”

“I chose to have a narrative where she can reminisce about her past moments like an unfolding panorama.”

Choo wrote the script to give support and solace to those grappling with pain, much like Frida, who lived a life full of pain yet never surrendered to it, and made it an inspiration for her art.

Choo said, “There is no one without pain. How one overcomes pain is an individual journey. I wanted to share the story of someone who endured enormous pain but still shouted ‘Viva La Vida.’”

“Frida” runs until Oct. 15 at COEX Artium.