It's the invasion of cable dramas! But one I welcome with open arms. First, I went ga-ga over fluffy romantic FBRS, then Vampire Prosecutor had me eating out of its hand with its great plot and adorable Yun Joon-hun, then the long awaited campus musical drama -What's Up also premiered last week. Gosh...I'm dying already! Hihi.
First of all, I will admit I watched this without knowing what to expect, well except to see more awesomeness from Im Joo-hwan who I adore to bits. Second, I'm curious why this drama gets chucked out from one tv station to another. Is it really that bad?
Music is definitely not my forte. Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy listening to music but really my knowledge is superficial at best. So it was not without any trepidation that I watch this. I'm seriously doubting my insanity for attempting to recap this project, which upon finishing Episode 1, had me wondering if I'm out of my depths. Still, I shall try to do it justice and if anyone could offer me input, muchas gracias!
What’s Up opens with a short somber montage showing seven of our leads over a background of a most haunting music. Wow.
The story introduces Jang Jae-hun (Im Joo Hwan) as a small-time pickpocket who targets drunks along with two friends as his accomplices.
One day, his friend gets caught by the police while acting on his own. Jae-hun tries to bluff his way as a police officer to try to rescue his friend but the police officer sees through his lie. Out of tricks, they run away and the boys got separated. During his escape, Jae-hun hijacks a motorcycle.
In another scene, an elderly man receives a yellow note along with some photographs from a private investigator.
The man leaves and rushes to cross the road just as the pedestrian light blinks. In his haste to escape, Jae-hun accidentally hits the man who gets thrown into the path of an oncoming truck.
He watches in shock as the man writhes on the road after being hit by the truck. He unconsciously collects the yellow note which was in the man’s possession and flees the scene uncertainly.
Jae-hun eventually ends up at a concert hall, walking aimlessly in a haze when he’s drawn by a singing voice. It’s a woman singing the Phantom of the Opera (though he doesn’t know it). The powerful melancholic music stirs something in him and he looks at the note which he’s still gripping in his fist, tears flowing down his cheeks as he absorbs the enormity of what just happened. Can I just say I love this scene…it’s so moving somehow..and Im Joo-hwan is fantastic here. And POTO is one of the few musicals I do know…I love the songs.
Jae-hun returns to the scene of the accident and tries to find out if the man was okay. The preoccupied cashier of a convenience store right by the road tells him that the man should be fine since the accident scene was cleared rather quickly. Jae-hun is relieved to hear that and leaves. But what he doesn’t know is the man actually died on the way to the hospital…
The next day, Jae-hun tells his mother of his desire to study acting at a University. He tries to explain his decision by describing how deeply he’s affected by a rendition of a sad song he heard at a rehearsal in the concert hall. Mum may not know what he’s talking about but she could see that he’s sincere about it. Mum gives him her bankbook and with that, her blessing.
Jae-Hun asks his friend to apply, on his behalf, to major in acting at a university. Friend asks if he could sing or dance and Jae-Hun replies "no" to both. Friend shrugs it off and submits Jae-Hun's application as a musical major.
Second, we have Ha Do-sung (Kang Dae-sung) or his alter ego, Hades. Hades is a mysterious composer-writer-singer who has become an internet sensation but hides his identity behind a mask. He’s been arranged to perform live for the first time by his uncle cum manager. Hades is anxious about being found out by his mother but uncle assures him that he’ll be fine as long as he wears that mask.
It’s Audition day. Also making her way to the audition is Park Tae-Yi (Kim Ji-Won), daughter of the dead man. She’s got a lousy sense of direction and gets lost easily.
In the waiting room, a very nervous participant #137, Kim Byung-gun (Jo jung-suk) is having a severe case of stage fright. Famous actress, Eun Chae-young (Jang Hee-jin) offers him some encouragements, all swathed in bright light. I smell a loveline.
Jae-Hun also arrives on campus and is surprised to find himself applying as a musical major and not an acting major.
Another participant, Oh Doo-ri (Lim Ju-Eun) is accompanied by her overbearing mother to the audition. It's obvious that she's suppressing real self, her smile disappearing as soon as her mother is out of sight...
The audition is headed by Prof Yang (Kim Mi-kyung). She recognizes Chae-young and asks why she applied for musical instead of acting. She explains, “I want to do musical. But I don’t want to be criticized. A somewhat famous actor, even if she’s not familiar with the basics of a musical may still be casted due to her bankability. But that is a mockery to those who sincerely works hard for a musical. I don’t want that. I came here because I want to do well.”
Byung-gun struggles through his audition because of his nerves. He totally sucks at singing. In the acting part, he basically just recites the script with hardly any expression. But turns out he does have one redeeming ability – he’s got a great memory! He memorized the entire script for the play…
In a corner of the waiting room, a timid Do-sung is preparing quietly on his own when he’s approached by Tae-hee who requested that they practice together. Aha…another loveline! Jae-hun sits next to them and asks, “What is a musical?” leaving the other two dumfounded…wakaka.
Doo-ri is giving some over-the-top acting in her audition. She notices the lack of interest among the judging panel, loses her patience and voila, her real personality takes over and her performance becomes more engaging and heartfelt (and scary!).
Tae-hee is next and her performance is cute and funny.LOL. Not sure if that’s what she aimed for though.
It’s Jae-hun’s turn. He acts as though he’s in cohorts with the trainee lecturer, An Jung-dae which confuses An JT and annoys Prof Yang. When Jae-hun drops the bomb about them being lovers…pfffttt…An JT freaks out. Gawd….brilliant. Just as Prof Yang is about to intervene, Jae-hun comes clean…leaving her speechless!
Lastly, it’s Do-sung’s turn. He starts hesitantly but by the end of the song, you get the feeling that he’s singing as though performing in a concert. Can’t fault him for stage presence. *Clap clap* He is quick to try to hide his face by combing his hair over his eyes though. Interesting – extrovert when performing, introvert in real life.
If Dream High was light and fuzzy, What's Up is definitely darker and edgier. The tone at the earlier parts left me wondering if I've plunged head first into some sort of melodrama. Thankfully, the mood lightens towards the end, not LOL funny but amusingly cynical. This drama has a decidedly more gritty and satirical feel. If I must compare, it actually reminds me a little of the Scent of A woman. Only, no one gets a death sentence by the first episode.
It assembles a group of misfits, each of them uniquely different and I love these kind of underdogs' story. Well I hope it's one. I'm not too sure of the direction of this story as it stands but safe to say, I'm intrigued enough to find out how these band of misfits will bond.