K-pop has been growing in popularity globally for the last 20 years, even though other attempts to break into the American market over the years haven’t met with the same success until recently, he said.
“If there’s a spectrum of universality, K-pop is engineered to be as universal as possible,” he said.
Casting the show took about two years, Kim said, with open calls both in the US and South Korea. Some of those in the show have K-pop backgrounds, including Luna, a former member of the group f(x), who plays the central character of MwE, a singer who has spent years working toward her dreams and has come to a crossroads.
It’s a step forward for Asian American representation on Broadway, which matters a great deal to Kim.
“That talent exists, and they just need a platform,” he said. “So it was really important to me to put these Asian people on stage and see them not playing the typical roles that they play, but playing rock stars, playing pop stars, dancing their faces off and acting their faces off and just being spectacular.”
For her part, Park called the experience an honour.
“K-pop and Broadway have both been my passion for a long time; K-pop has been like comfort food for me, and Broadway was my seemingly unattainable dream, given there haven’t been many Asian composers, let alone Asian female composers that I can see and dream to be like,” she said in an email. “To be able to bring something that feels like home to me, to my dream stage, Broadway, feels like the most miraculous gift that I’ll cherish for a lifetime.”
Kim said it was also important that the show includes some Korean interspersed among the English, both in the songs and the dialogue.
It’s “a way to be really authentic to the experience of K-pop idols and Korean people”, Kim said, pointing out that “when I speak to my mum, I’m switching back and forth all the time, depending on what we’re talking about”.
“The design of the bilingual nature of the show was very intentional.”
Clearly, a musical built around K-pop has a built-in base of potential audience members. But Kim says there’s something for everyone, even those who have never heard a K-pop tune.
“Hopefully if we do our jobs right, you’re watching a fun musical with a bunch of great K-pop songs,” he said. “But really what you’re getting as you leave the theatre is a universal story.”