New Broadway Musical Brings the High-energy World of K-pop to Life

New Broadway Musical Brings the High-energy: THE BIG APPLE — A new musical on Broadway features several tried-and-true plot devices, such as a singer and her relationship with the mentor who mentored her, an outsider attempting to find his place, and aspiring young ladies.

That said, I’ve never heard them sound like this before. This past Sunday, “KPOP,” a musical about the international phenomenon that is Korean pop music, premiered at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

The musical provides a look behind the scenes at some K-pop performers as they prepare for their first concert in New York City, and features an almost all-Asian American and Asian cast, many of whom are making their Broadway debuts.

New Broadway Musical Brings High-energy
New Broadway Musical Brings High-energy

Arguments flare up, get settled, and culminate in a concert-like show. Playwright Jason Kim has been working on a play centred on K-pop for the better part of a decade; an off-Broadway production premiered in 2017, with music and lyrics by Helen Park and Max Vernon; and now the musical has finally made it to Broadway.

Kim was born in South Korea, but he and his family eventually moved to the Midwest of the United States. His life has revolved around K-pop and Korean dramas. He was also a huge fan of musicals, particularly backstage dramas like “A Chorus Line” and “Dreamgirls.”

He said, “I enjoy backstage shows.” Do people seem to be battling with one another? Can you tell whether they’re truly in love with one another? These are some of the things I’ve pondered. Kim was introducing the K-pop machine to an American audience that was largely unfamiliar with it in the first stage version of the show; five years later.

It has been rewritten for a world where BTS and Blackpink are pop chart mainstays, among a slew of other Korean entertainment in movies and television like “Squid Games” becoming more popular in the U.S.

Back then, people in the United States “didn’t really know what K-pop was, so there was a lot of explaining that I had to do. … Kim, a screenwriter, explained, “I didn’t have to take the posture of having to apologise or have to explain anything this time around, and just let the tale unfold.”

The coincidence was “very serendipitous,” he said. As one person put it, “it’s been extremely profound and moving actually to witness the world evolve in this way.” “The U.S. is finally catching up with what was already going on around the world,” says Robert Ji-Song Ku, an associate professor of Asian American studies at Binghamton University, in reference to the success of a musical featuring the sounds of K-pop on Broadway.

Even while past attempts to break into the American market over the years haven’t met with the same success until recently, he said, K-pop has been gaining in popularity globally over the last 20 years. He remarked that “K-pop is engineered to be as global as possible” if there is, in fact, a spectrum of universality.

Kim added that the casting process took around two years and included calls to the public in both the United States and South Korea. Some of the cast members have K-pop pedigrees; Luna, a former member of the group f(x), plays MwE, the show’s protagonist and a singer who has spent years pursuing her goals but has reached a crossroads.

Because of Kim’s passion for increasing Asian Americans’ visibility on Broadway, this is a big event. He remarked, “There is talent out there; they just need a stage.” To see Asian actors and actresses in roles other than stereotypes was crucial to me, so I cast them as rock stars and pop stars who dance and act their hearts out on stage.

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