Review: ‘KPOP’ Sings and Dances Its Way Through a Divided Culture

And for any theatergoer who participates in this movable junk-food buffet, “KPOP” is likely to come across as entertaining and enervating, in fairly equal measures.


Excerpt: ‘KPOP’

A scene from the new musical about the world of South Korean K-pop.

By ARS NOVA on Publish Date September 20, 2017.


Conceived by the Woodshed Collective and the playwright Jason Kim, with direction by Teddy Bergman and songs by Helen Park and Max Vernon, “KPOP” offers a guided, room-by-room tour of a Korean hit factory that is hoping, finally, to capture a market that has long eluded it: the United States. To achieve this goal, JTM Entertainment — which is run by a Mr. Moon (James Saito) and his wife, Ruby (Vanessa Kai) — has enlisted the services of the aforementioned Jerry Kim, a Korean-American who heads the explicitly named Crossover agency.

Jerry claims that his company has been responsible for the stateside success of the likes of “Shakira, Zara, Ikea, Hugh Jackman and Le Pain Quotidien.” We, the audience, are asked to be his focus group, gathered to offer suggestions on how to make JTM’s flavor of pop stars more palatable to Americans.

Theatergoers are divided into different teams (according to the color of wrist bands issued before the show begins) and ushered through a series of meticulously imagined rehearsal spaces, recording studios, cosmetic analysis rooms and a theater-cum-bar, where we are allowed to observe the finished product.

That would be a newly reorganized boy band (called F8, and pronounced “fate”) and a girl band (Special K). There is also the label’s reigning solo artist, MwE (a divinely petulant Ashley Park, who wears Tricia Barsamian’s haute girl-goddess costumes as if they were sweatsuits). Mr. Kim clearly had a swell time devising names.


Ashley Park playing MwE, a solo K-pop artist.

Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Among those on hand to knead the would-be stars into shape are a vocal coach (Amanda Morton), a plastic surgeon (David Shih) and an American choreographer (Ebony Williams). Though there are…

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