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AMERICAN THEATER | Why My Journey With ‘KPOP’ Feels Like a Broadway Homecoming

The solid of “KPOP” on Broadway. (Photograph by Matthew Murphy)

In April 2017, Emily Shooltz, former affiliate creative director of Ars Nova, reached out to gauge my curiosity in a “large, immersive musical about Ok-pop.” My identify was handed alongside by César Alvarez, who I had met shortly after they established the Polyphone Competition at College of the Arts in Philadelphia. The choice was straightforward for me: a convincing sure. How might I cross up the chance to collaborate with Korean and Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) creatives, in addition to a solid composed predominantly of Koreans? It appeared unreal.

I’m an adopted Korean American who grew up within the suburbs of Albany. The closest proximity I needed to Korean tradition was my finest pal Ann, a first-generation Korean American (or second technology, by Korean parameters). I used to be considered one of a small (although important) group of Korean adoptees in my group. And whereas my dad and mom made a number of makes an attempt to hyperlink me up with my id from a really younger age, none of them caught. It wasn’t till my late 20s that I started to embrace and luxuriate in my heritage.

My obsession with musical theater began early, with Fiddler on the Roof and The Fantasticks because the ABCs. Towards the top of elementary faculty, my dad and mom began taking me all the way down to Manhattan for two-show-day adventures. We might get in line at TKTS (normally farther again), and considered one of my dad and mom would stroll me as much as the board to view choices. There have been no apps or on-line postings or TodayTix then, so this ritual turned a time-honored custom. I could not wait to see what was a whopping 50 % off! My first Broadway present was The Secret Backyard. These sporadic weekend journeys continued via center and highschool.

The day we noticed Lease, my molecules modified perpetually. I could not have named it then, however seeing a tapestry of racial identities current collectively in a contemporary context was massively impactful. I had been performing in class musicals, however hadn’t thought of that there could possibly be a spot for somebody who appears to be like like me on the business stage. With a hearth in my intestine, I ended up pursuing a BFA in musical theater efficiency at Ithaca Faculty.

And now right here I’m. On Broadway. Along with KPOP‘s 18 performer debuts on Broadway, there are a selection of debuts among the many inventive and manufacturing groups, together with my very own. I have been an expert music director for the higher a part of the final 15 years, and will by no means have imagined the serendipity of creating my debut with such a historic piece of musical theatre.

Think about: Till now, there have been simply seven Broadway musicals, all falling into the class of “interval piece,” that featured an AAPI presence (which I outline as exceeding a single character). Till pretty just lately, most weren’t authored by AAPI people:

south pacific (1949, 2008 revival) by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan
The King & I (1951, revivals in 1977, 1985, 1996, 2015) by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Flower Drum Track (1958, 2002 revival) by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joseph Fields (with the addition of David Henry Hwang for the 2002 Broadway revival)
Pacific Overtures (1976, 2004 revival) by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman
Miss Saigon (1989, 2017 revival) by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil
shogun (1990) by Paul Chihara and John Driver
Allegiance (2015) by Jay Kuo, Lorenzo Thione, and Marc Acito

Into this combine comes KPOP, penned by Jason Kim, Helen Park, and Max Vernon. Nevertheless it’s not simply the truth that this musical facilities AAPI our bodies and tales that thrills me; it is usually that we’re spending time with individuals in modern circumstances, grappling with timeless tensions like the non-public value of ambition, the character of authenticity, and parentage. (The final theme is of specific poignancy for me, as somebody who went via the foster system in South Korea earlier than being adopted at 5 months outdated.)

Amanda Morton.

KPOP calls to thoughts components of reveals I really like dearly, together with A Refrain Line and gypsy. Nonetheless, our story is ready in a culturally particular container by which the characters course of battle—a container which will really feel unfamiliar to the standard Broadway-going viewers at first look, however is deeply related to musical theater custom at its core.

In New York Metropolis, a cosmopolitan environment wealthy with progressive thinkers, it might appear fairly pure for a manufacturing like this to roll into the 2022 Broadway season, particularly after the “racial reckoning” we have all come via and proceed to grapple with. However I wish to draw your consideration to this: It’s a radical act. To witness these charismatic, hungry, hopeful younger AAPI artists navigate a narrative the place they get to be nuanced, humorous, and flawed fashionable characters on a Broadway stage is actually groundbreaking! It’s a story I by no means thought I might see, and one which I consider can have a profound impression on how AAPI People minimize via actuality, pursuing goals with a stronger sense of confidence than I had rising up.

I really like musical theater with my entire self. It has been my dwelling for so long as I can bear in mind, each personally and professionally. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing reveals on Broadway since I used to be 12. To now be a part of a theater season there, amongst icons of all generations, is a dizzying honor. And to be there with KPOP—a love letter to American musical theatre, and an open hand to ask you to expertise a pioneering side of Korean tradition—appears like all elements of my humanity coming collectively in celebration.

Amanda Morton (she/her) is a music director based mostly out of the NYC area.

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