I've seen Chinese opera, Japanese kabuki theater, and now Korean musical theater. And you know what, Hero The Musical - currently playing a limited run at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center - is grand.
Fortunately, I received a mini education in Japan-Korea relations from a colleague before seeing the musical; therefore, I appreciated the history and intensity of this Korean musical even more.
The hero referred to the in the title of this musical is An Chunggun, a 30 year old general in the Righteous Army. An Chunggun and his comrades plot, pray for courage and assassinate Japanese leader Ito Hirobumi. An Chunggun and three of his comrades are then captured and tried in a Japanese court. In one of the most intense and passionate scenes in the musical, An Chunggun proclaims the atrocities that Japan has inflicted on the Korean people before he is sentenced to hanging not as a prisoner of war as he wished but a common criminal. At the end of the musical, the audience learns that An Chunggun's remains are in an unknown location in Japan and have never been returned to Korea.
While there isn't a live orchestra (recorded music is utilized) and reading English supertitles is necessary since the musical is performed in Korean, if you are a history buff and have an interest in East Asia, patriotism, resistance movements and/or multiculturalism, Hero The Musical is for you.