Teens from Teen Reviewers and Critics had the chance to see KPOP the Musical on Broadway. They discussed and critiqued each aspect of this new musical. Read all about their experience below. Their work has been featured on online publication, 3Views.
A Review of KPOP the Musical on Broadway
BY SOFIA K, 12TH GRADE
KPOP on Broadway was a unique experience, from its music (by Helen Park and Max Vernon) to the set design (by Gabriel Hainer Evansohn). Following the story of three k-pop acts — boy band f(8), girl group RTMIS, and soloist MwE — filming promotional material right before their big debut, the musical blends traditional Broadway storytelling with fun and dynamic K-pop songs. This play’s use of the stage creates an immersive environment that sucks the audience into the story.
KPOP‘s music is great at carrying this story’s high energy. The full-blown k-pop style performances that are paired with the music manage to not take the viewer out of the narrative. The plot line switches between the two groups and the solo act, eventually bringing them all together.
The story itself is cleverly told not only through the performances on stage, but through the stage itself. The plot follows a cameraman (Henry, played by Aubie MerryLees) filming the three groups — the feed from Henry’s camera translates to the digital screens that surround the Circle in the Square Theatre’s stage during crucial moments in the musical. This creates the illusion of the audience peeking behind the scenes and allows for plot twists and turns that couldn’t be told as effectively without the transmitted footage.
Furthermore, the storyline utilizes the venue as an actual location within its events, successfully strengthening the immersiveness. The screens on stage and retractable platforms also make the dance numbers seem like music videos come to life, adding brilliant visuals that complement the performers.
The costuming (by Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi) is another highlight of the musical, every music number having its own stylish ensemble. Each costume is tailored to its wearer, with subtle details that persist with each character despite the costume changes.
Blending Broadway and k-pop is surely an unusual choice, but one that ended up creating an unexpectedly rich and vibrant performance that is definitely worth watching.
A Review of KPOP the Musical
BY ZELDA G, 11TH GRADE
My ArtsConnection cohort went to see KPOP at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre. Previously, I saw Once On this Island at the same Circle in the Square Theatre and it is a very nice and small venue which improved the overall experience. I prefer to see the performers in a smaller place during a musical, rather than far away, so that made me more confident in seeing KPOP.
I came into this show with no prior knowledge of k-pop as a genre and I think an important starting point is that a different audience member (one who was familiar with the genre) would likely have been more engaged with the music of the show. I was hoping for an entertaining concert musical because other concert musicals usually don’t have that complex of a plot. Comparing KPOP to other musicals actually makes the show more forgettable because, as expected, KPOP’s plot wasn’t particularly shocking or new, even though I felt like it was attempting to be. Ultimately, it fell into a predictable attempt at behind-the-scenes drama, like when Brad (played by Zachary Noah Piser) was not feeling recognized in his k-pop boy band f(8), but oh, it turns out another band member had a valid reason for his annoyance with Brad. Because of the underdeveloped plot, the director (Teddy Bergman) failed to gain my interest. However, unlike many other concert musicals, KPOP did at least have a plot (script by Jason Kim) making it a true “Broadway show” and more than just a concert. And so while the show could have improved the detail within the conflict between band members or changed the final outcome to be anything different than a totally expected happy ending (I had lower expectations on that second front), it was mostly engaging.
On the positive side, the thing that I found set KPOP furthest apart from others in the concert musical genre was the staging. The camera guy (Henry, played by Aubie MerryLees) set right onstage with the k-pop acts — boy band f(8), girl group RTMIS, and solo act MwE — contributed to the small importance of the director stirring drama within the plot. And the lighting (Jiyoun Chang) was used with reason; it wasn’t all over the place or combined with overly loud or too intense effects.
The timing of KPOP was pretty good up until the end because there weren’t extreme pauses without meaning. However, I found the end to be similar to a show such as American Utopia in that it dragged on a bit and I kept thinking it was about to end and it would keep on going. It could have ended at multiple different points prior to its finale and didn’t need that much resolution ending music.
Overall, I think KPOP was a much better attempt to incorporate a popular type of music into a show, but the overall story needed much more intrigue then it provided – so ultimately, for me, the show isn’t really worth revisiting, which is usually how I assess my appreciation for shows.