November 22, 2022 12:17
The musical "KPOP" was staged for the first time in front of a packed house at New York's Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway on Sunday.
The K-pop musical is only opens on Nov. 27, but Sunday's preview for journalists and Broadway insiders also let in members of the public who flocked to part with US$100 to $250 and watch the show.
The musical depicts the struggles of K-pop artists. Star Mui, a solo singer, an eight-member boy band called F8 and five-piece girl band Artemis are all part of fictitious entertainment company RBX based in Gangnam.
It touches on themes like their grueling training, conflict with the older generation and identity crisis suffered by Korean Americans. The cast includes Luna of defunct girl band f(x), Min and Kim Bo-hyung of defunct miss A and SPICA, and Kevin, a former member of boy band U-Kiss.
The fact that such a musical is being performed on Broadway shows K-pop is no longer treated as simply eye candy for teenagers but as the complex subject matter that reflects the culture and mentality of Korean society. Most of the songs and dialogue are in English, but they contain Korean words.
Composer Hellen Park (36), the first female Asian composer on Broadway, said in an interview that she was encouraged to overcome the language barrier by the Oscar-winning movie "Parasite."
"'Parasite' winning the Oscar empowered us. That was proof that if you were more specific with your own culture and unapologetically telling your story, it will be understood across cultures," she said.
"KPOP" is the brainchild of Korean American writer Jason Kim and the performance troupe Woodshed Collective, which handled the design. The musical was performed off Broadway for a month back in 2017 to a packed audience and received the Drama Desk Award and Drama League Award among others.
People who came to see the preview ranged from teenage K-pop fans to musical aficionados in their 60s and 70s, who gave it a standing ovation at the end. One woman named Megan (21) had come from San Francisco to watch the show. "I like the girl band TWICE and learned Korean by watching YouTube and Korean dramas, so I was able to understand most of the lines," she said.
Another spectator who works on Broadway said, "It was a surprising show that gave me a deeper understanding of what goes into creating K-pop and Korean culture. It's rare to see a show starring so many young and vibrant Asian performers and I believe it will add to the diversity of Broadway performances."
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