The unique musical KPOP on Broadway

The unique musical KPOP on Broadway

Broadway assessment by Adam Feldman

It may be onerous to carry onto a way of your self as you push towards mainstream showbiz success. That was one of many classes of the immersive 2017 Off Broadway musical KPOP, wherein small teams of viewers members moved, Sleep No Extra type, by way of a guided music-factory tour of a fictional Korean pop firm bent on grooming its performers for fame within the American market. It is usually, sadly, a lesson of KPOP itself, which has now arrived at Broadway’s Circle within the Sq. with a lot cosmetic surgery that it’s barely recognizable. In my admiring assessment of the unique manufacturing, I wrote that  “KPOP is aware of what sort of immersive theater it desires to be”: a bubble bathtub that gave us the froth however confirmed us the soiled water, too. The brand new model doesn’t appear to know itself half so nicely. It’s a foam celebration floating on a trickle of soapy drama.

Jully Lee performs Ruby, the hard-driving drive behind a Ok-pop label referred to as RBY Leisure that’s getting ready to make its New York debut. The lead present pony in her steady is MwE, a solo star performed by the gifted real-life Korean pop singer and musical-theater actor Luna; additionally on the roster are the eight-member boy band F8 and the five-member woman group RTMS. In a nod to KPOP’s behind-the-scenes origins, there’s a B-plot about B-roll: a white American documentary filmmaker (Aubie Merrylees) is readily available on the rehearsal, attempting to reveal fissures behind the blissful entrance the corporate presents to the world. 

KPOP doesn’t stint on concert-style numbers, and that’s the place this manufacturing shines. Directed by Teddy Bergman, the well-drilled younger solid performs Helen Park and Max Vernon’s exuberant pastiche songs (a number of of that are new to this model of the present) with panache, executing Jennifer Weber’s rigorous choreography with zippy synchronized swagger and verve. Their costumes, by Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi, are spectacular—wild hybrids of patterns, materials, textures and worldwide influences—and the performances are appropriately heightened by the present’s lighting (by Jiyoun Chang), sound (by Peter Fitzgerald and Andrew Keister) and multipaneled set (by Gabriel Hainer Evansohn). 

As a lot enjoyable as these moments are, nonetheless, they’ve solely a tangential relationship to the storytelling; carried out in a mix of English and untranslated Korean, they illustrate the abilities of the actors however do little to additional the narrative. And e book author Jason Kim, having jettisoned practically all of his 2017 script, has not discovered a lot to interchange it with. The main target of the story is now on MwE, but her most fascinating plot line from the unique—a worry that she is about to get replaced by a youthful singer—is now gone; as an alternative, we get a sequence of acquainted vaguely Gypsy-ish flashbacks about her rise at RBY. (Within the earliest one, Luna should fake to be 9 years previous.) This coexists uncomfortably with the quasi-documentary conceit of the remainder of the present, and it additionally leaves nearly no time to individuate any of the group members; apart from Zachary Noah Piser as a brand new F8 member resented by his bandmates for being American, they every get just a few strains apiece to make an impression. 

Adapting KPOP for Broadway was by no means going to be a simple process, and the trouble to take action is commendable. However someplace alongside its rise by way of the air, the musical’s bubble has burst. It’s simply OKpop now.

KPOP. Circle within the Sq. Theatre (Broadway). E book by Jason Kim. Music and lyrics by Helen Park and Max Vernon. With Luna, Jully Lee, Zachary Noah Piser. Operating time: 2hrs 10mins. One intermission. 

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The unique musical KPOP on Broadway

Luna in KPOP | {Photograph}: Courtesy Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman


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