The Korean musical drama “Dream High” started airing on ABS-CBN2 last April 16 after Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition 4. This 16-episode drama was one of my favorites from 2011 not because it’s really good but more because it’s really entertaining.
The drama focuses on the lives of six students in the fictional Kirin High School, a place where future Hallyu Stars are trained and groomed before the chosen ones finally make their debut. They get schooled on everything from singing, songwriting to dancing. On a personal level, they also learn how to connect and form relationships with other people. What makes this process is interesting are the different strengths and weaknesses of each character.
Kelly (played by Bae Suzy from the Korean girl group Miss A) for instance, is quite talented. She grew up with the best training and has always had such tremendous confidence in her singing abilities. However, she is practically a singing robot (as one of the jokes in the drama says). Her great technical singing skills is matched by a debilitating inability to connect with the song and the audience. For her, singing is just about making good sounds so she fails to express genuine emotions. Making this worse is a turn of events that ruin her family’s finances.
Gino (played by Taecyon of Korean boy band 2PM) is a fantastic dancer. He has arguably the most dope dance moves in the school. Nevertheless, what people don’t know is that this vagabond is actually the illegitimate son of a powerful politician. Because of his father’s strong prohibitions, he cannot fully achieve his dream of being in the limelight. He also happens to be childhood friends with Kelly, although she seems to have forgotten about him.
Angelie (played by Ham Eun-Jeong of Korean girl group T-ara) has always been a mousy wallflower. As the best friend of Kelly, she is the president of her fan club. So when Kelly betrays her during the audition for Kirin High School, she turns into the best enemy of Kelly. Vowing to make her former friend pay for this, she works doubly hard to surpass her – even to the point of resorting to underhanded tactics.
Marco (played by Kim Soo-Hyun who is the only non-idol in the main cast) is the typical poor guy from the provinces who reams of just living a slightly better life. Although he has hidden raw talent, he never considered himself good enough to do anything great until Kelly convinces him otherwise. When he enters Kirin, he learns not just about the city and its discriminating people but also about how he might actually possess genius that can cut across social status.
Gelou (played by the Korean singer IU) is quite similar to Marco in the sense that she also has genius talent but has something holding her back. She possesses the rare ability to have “perfect pitch”, which in musical terms is basically the ability to never be out of tune and to be able to identify the pitch of notes that she hears. Nevertheless, this is weighed down literally by her obesity. She is the fat girl who can sing the hell out of any song. Seriously lacking in confidence, she even wears a mascot costume during the Kirin auditions.
Jason (played by Jang Wooyoung also from Korean boy band 2PM) is the over-achieving Korean-American student who has the moves that rival even Gino’s. He is the perfect student who seems to have everything on the surface: good looks, talent, education, and the top spot in class. In Kirin though, he meets Gelou and realizes that his singing talent and star potential may not be quite as good as he thought it was. This realization leads him to question his career decision but at the same time pulls him closer to Gelou.
It is quite noticeable that practically the whole cast except for Kim Soo-Hyun is made up of Korean teen idols. This is one of the main reasons why the acting isn’t quite at par most of the time (Yes, Taecyon. I’m looking at you.) There is a certain stiffness in the way a lot of the cast act, as if they can’t help but find their best angles all the time and act cute in front of the camera as if the audiences were part of their usual fawning fans. If it wasn’t for the stellar performance of Kim Soo-Hyun, the acting might have been a total dud.
Story-telling is also not a strong suit in this drama as it throws a lot of clichés our way. If you’ve seen a lot of Korean dramas, there is a tendency for some of the “twists” to become quite predictable. The characters’ growth are also not quite balanced as some get developed more while others just get pushed a bit.
Nevertheless, the drama more than makes up for the bad acting (Yes, Taecyon. It still is mainly you). It has a certain disarming charm in the way the different cast members bring some of their real life experiences to their performances. There’s just something amazing in watching a Korean idol play a role where he is an aspiring Korean idol. Coupled with Kim Soo-Hyun’s amazing performance, I was able to forgive their weakness and focus on their strengths.
Because of the cast, the musical performances are really the draw in this drama. The musical performances managed to capture the spirit and the story that the dialogue and acting failed to deliver. Each song in the drama is like a capsule of the story — full of passion and emotion. If you watched all the musical numbers alone and skipped the other parts, I think you could already get a good grasp of what the drama is all about.
So despite its weaknesses, Dream High is a definite must see especially for K-Pop fans in the Philippines. It is a trendy drama that feels young, light, and quite enjoyable. This drama may not make you think much but it will definitely make you feel a lot. Just like a dream.
Thanks to ABSTVPromo for the video.