Unveiling the genius behind puppets in musical ‘Benjamin Button’

Singer-actor Shim Chang-min plays Benjamin Button in the musical 'Benjamin Button.' The puppet, created by designer Moon Su-ho, depicts Benjamin's early stages of life as an old man. Courtesy of EMK Musical Company

On a moving train bound for Chicago, Blue, an old woman with dementia, encounters a young boy who strikes her as strangely familiar. When she asks for his name, the boy introduces himself as “Benjamin.”

Struggling to recall who Benjamin is, Blue listens as the child begins to recount their shared moments, setting the stage for a tale that unfolds in the new musical, “Benjamin Button.”

Produced by Korea’s EMK Musical Company, the musical is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Like the original work, the story follows Benjamin Button, a mysterious man who is born as an old man but grows younger as he ages.

Abandoned by his parents due to his peculiar nature, Benjamin eventually finds refuge at a bar at the age of nine, where he meets Blue, a traveling singer of the same age. Despite Benjamin’s appearance, the two quickly form a close bond that gradually blossoms into love.

The musical’s poignant love story offers a glimmer of hope for a destined encounter, even to those who refuse to believe in love. The journey of a man who defies time in search of life’s “sweet spot” tugs greatly at the audience’s emotions.

Significantly contributing to this emotional nature of “Benjamin Button” is the creative use of stage puppets.

Covering Benjamin’s entire lifespan, the muscial creatively employs wooden puppets to depict Benjamin at various life stages, overcoming the limitations of casting actors of different ages.

The three actors playing Benjamin — or more like the spirit of Benjamin — are Shim Chang-min of TVXQ!, Kim Jae-bum and Kim Sung-sik. Instead of stepping forward, they stand behind the puppets representing different life stages, deftly manipulating 안전 their facial expressions and movements like widening their eyes or opening their mouths. Additional cast members also contribute by animating the puppets’ arms and legs.

These puppetry techniques substantially contribute to the enchanting, fairytale-like ambiance of the musical. As actors interact with the puppets, the wooden dolls seamlessly meld into the performance, crafting a captivating illusion of life.

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