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Broadway’s KPOP Astonishes on the Surface, But Fails to Dig Deep.



As they set themselves up, KPOP the new musical comes floating forward on a black stepped thrust, selling itself like a prettily packaged product ready for consumption by the eager young masses filling the auditorium. I know I’m not the target audience member, like many that surround me, as I know absolutely nothing about the global phenomenon known as K-pop. I truly don’t. I have never listened to any of the music coming out under that banner (I’m embarrassed to say) and have no clue about its ever-increasing popularity that has exponentially expanded and enthralled the fandom world of pop music. I’m blissfully unaware of the groups (that I had to look up) such as BTS, Blackpink, EXO, TWICE, and more, that seems to deliver this musical genre of exacting choreography and pitch-perfect harmony with such, almost painfully, deliberate precision. It’s pretty impressive, I must say, just how manufactured and picture-pretty this phenomenon truly is, much like this newest venture, Broadway’s KPOP musical that drops itself strongly onto the thrust stage of The Circle in the Square Theater with numerous mind-blowing performances and movements, one after the other. It really delivers the goods in those two departments, sound and fury, but unfortunately for this genre and for this production, the required rest of what makes good theatre great falters and fails to land with ease. No matter how exacting it is.

The cast of Broadway’s KPOP. photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman.

KPOP tries, almost desperately, with an open-ended vulnerability to draw us in, using the overwhelming pressure for success as the tool to connect. It feels like an old Hollywood plot formula, presenting the symbolic mother/daughter pairing and the complicated push and pull that exists within that bond that ultimately is what fuels these kids need to succeed, and ultimately be validated. Created and conceptualized from a somewhat clumsy playing field by Woodshed Collective and book-writer Jason Kim (HBO’s “Barry“), with music, lyrics, and music production by Helen Park (“Over the Moon“), and music and lyrics by Max Vernon (The View UpStairs), KPOP unfurls itself most consciously and dynamically on that well-structured faux-concert stage, designed neatly by Gabriel Hainer Evansohn (Barrow Street’s Sweeney Todd). It slides the performers towards us with force, paralleling the desperate desire by these performers to find maternal approval from the hardened mamma bear music executive, former star, and CEO named Ruby, played with cutthroat determination by Jully Lee (Joy Luck Club‘s 1st National Tour). And she’s no easy pushover, by any means.

Ruby is a force of nature, we are instructed to acknowledge, white suit-stalking the auditorium where her collection of K-pop groups has come together for the fictional South Korean music label RBY Entertainment’s first U.S. showcase. It’s a huge event, we are told, acknowledged by all the techno-wizardry that this production has amassed before us to our amazement. The lighting by Jiyoun Chang (Broadway’s Slave Play) never fails to astonish, assisted most strongly by the sound design by Andrew Keister (Broadway’s Company) and the jaw-dropping projection design by Peter Nigrini (Broadway’s Beetlejuice). These production pros keep giving us more and more as if they realize that this is as deep as this story is going to get, and they must dazzle us so we might not notice the shallowness of the material. But the show does have an idea to turn this around, and on the eve of that concert, a few skips in the precision machine derail the momentum of the event, sending everyone scrabbling for some sense of security in their mad climb up the musical mountain.

Luna in Broadway’s KPOP. photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman.

The company’s long-reigning star, the gorgeously attired MwE, thanks to stellar costuming by Clint Ramos (Broadway’s Slave Play) and Sophia Choi (Yale Rep’s An Enemy of the People), freezes mid-song. It’s definitely a crack in the armor that was never intended, especially during one of the final rehearsals in a glittering bodysuit made to make her mark on us all. And it works. She is electrifying to take in visually, and one that teases us enough to make us lean in wanting more. Played fascinatingly by real-life superstar Luna, a true blue South Korean K-pop singer, musical actress, and television presenter, best known as the main vocalist and lead dancer of the K-pop girl group f(x), the head-lining singer is overcome, experiencing a crisis of sorts, and it sends her scrabbling for security in her dressing room. The tension fills the stage as Ruby descends on her to find out what has happened to her headliner and star. The moment brings the rehearsal to the edge, sending the other K-pop group members into their own sinkhole of concern; a state of instability that could easily bring down the whole ship if left too long to fester.

Standing by, documenting the whole thing, almost gleefully, is the somewhat sleazy videographer Harry, played well by Aubie Merrylees (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird), who only sees in the breakdown an opportunity for digging deeper into the formulaic world of K-pop, and hopefully, he thinks, exposing the underlying problems. He, in the most manipulative of fashions, starts laying the groundwork for conflict and secret cinema-graphic eavesdropping, recording private backroom conversations between the CEO/maternal figure, Ruby, the conflicted pop star, and her stabilizing boyfriend, Juny, played strongly by the very handsome Jinwoo Jung (Mark Taper’s The Christians).

This is the keyhole moment of the show, with the intention being to give us a secret insight into the star’s history, her background, and possibly what makes this young woman, and maybe all the others, Rick. They all seem so desperate for success, and underneath, they all carry a deep deafening need for approval from their K-pop mentor, Ruby. This is the catalyst for KPOP, a psychoanalytic minefield about approval, validation, and abandonment, that never really feels truly honest or authentic. The artifice, though, is now cracked, and beginning to spin out before us, shooting us back in time and re-starting again with the now-famous star having her first awkward audition in front of the determined but more desperate younger Ruby. The production tries to locate its heart, pushing that flashback narrative forward in bits and pieces throughout the overly long show. But it’s a paint-by-numbers approach to projected parental approval that seems to work its magic on the majority of the excited crowd that has gathered to cheer on this musical, but fails to fully register its truth inside this unimpressed viewer.

Zachary Noah Piser in Broadway’s KPOP. photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman.

The other weed that Harry, along with his reluctant cameraman (Major Curda), tries to plant is within the ranks of Ruby’s boyband group F8, led by its strong-willed leader, Jun Hyuk, played by K-Pop soloist Kevin Woo. The group gives off the impression of being tight and uniformly controlled, bringing the dynamic choreography of Jennifer Weber (West End/Broadway’s & Juliet) to exacting energetic life, but the bonds within aren’t as loyally tied together as one might believe. The group is at odds with its newest member, the young, cute, and extremely driven Brad, played impressively by the adorable Zachary Noah Piser (Barrow Street’s Sweeney Todd). He plays a singer from Connecticut who has jumped the line, he has been told, when he was picked to join the already well-established boys group even though he can’t speak any Korean. Harry tries to draw out the conflictual drama with the members of this boyband group, for the sake of his documentary ‘art’, as he does with the five-membered girl group RTMIS, who are also making their debut at this concert. He doesn’t exactly get what he wants though as he is just as conniving as anyone on that stage, more worried about success than being somewhat authentically human.

Directed with a never-ending hypnotic energy by Teddy Bergman (Woodshed Collective’s Empire Travel Agency) with music direction by Sujin Kim-Ramsey (JCTC’s Beatrice), KPOP tries its best to bring forth all of these differing complex issues that are rooted somewhere within this drive and intense configuration. These young hard working kids find moments to unpack their trauma, releasing all that they have given up to be here on that stage, hoping for success. Some tell us tales of hardship, like eating issues, being sleep deprived, or barely having any contact with their own families for years upon years, all with the hope for stardom and financial success. No wonder they have attachment difficulties, constantly trying to get love and attention from the symbolic mother figure, Ruby. It’s difficult to hear these issues brought forth, one after the other, yet the show never really gives these issues space to be explored before we are thrown into another distracting, yet entertaining, song and dance. But this is the nature of this musical. The problems within this industry are obvious and pretty complex, but at the end of the day, it really just wants us to see the tightly controlled artifice doing what it does best. And just don’t pay any attention to what’s going on behind the scenic curtain.

Kevin Woo (center) and the cast of Broadway’s KPOP. photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman.

Most of the enthralled audience members go along with this musically-appealing ideal, listening to the small inconsequential plot lines while patiently waiting for the musical moments that make them bounce with delight in their seats. The energy, I must admit, was pretty darn infectious, as this show truly does shine when the music and the choreography take center stage. And Luna shines her bright spotlight brighter and brighter as the story unfolds. The only problem is that underneath those brilliant costumes and gorgeously beautiful and talented faces, not much else is happening. No matter how much KPOP the Musical tries to trick us into believing they are being vulnerable and open with us, there is little to nothing uncovered, nor is anything of real value dug up backstage for our hungry eyes to see, hear, or digest.

K-Pop fans will definitely appreciate this beautifully packaged branding, as it is fun, festive, loud, and fantastically staged, but for anyone looking for more depth, this isn’t where you’ll find it. Pulsating with song after song filled with infectious beats, electrifying choreography, and big-grinned fun, KPOP is relentless in its drive for domination, using discipline, raw talent, and commercial ambition as the bases for this fractured attempt to be a phenomenon. It doesn’t do the job. Not really. Unless all you’re here for is that baseless bounce.

KPOP began previews on October 13, 2022, but unfortunately, the closing date has already been set for December 11, 2022, barely any time after its official opening night on November 20, 2022.

The cast of Broadway’s KPOP. photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Theatre News: Doubt: A Parable, Here Lies Love, Prayer for the French Republic, Eisenhower and Hell’s Kitchen



Tyne Daily

Tyne Daly and Liev Schreiber will star in a revival of Doubt: A Parable on Broadway. The production is to begin performances next February at the American Airlines Theater.

The new production is produced by the Roundabout Theater Company, and will be directed by Scott Ellis, who has been serving as the nonprofit’s interim artistic director since the death of artistic director Todd Haimes in April.

The play, by John Patrick Shanley, is about a nun who suspects a priest has sexually abused a student at a Catholic school. In 2005, the year it first opened on Broadway, it won both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play; it was later adapted into a film and an opera.

Daly, who will play the nun who serves as the school principal, and Schreiber, who will play the parish priest, are both Tony winners. Daly, is known for her role in  “Cagney & Lacey”. She won the 1990 Tony Award for her portrayal as Mama Rose in the revival of Gypsy. Schreiber, is the star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” He won a Tony Award in 2005 for a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Doubt is one of three plays to be staged by Roundabout this coming season. The others are I Need That, a new play  by Theresa Rebek starring Danny DeVito alongside his daughter, Lucy, and Home, a 1979 revival, directed by Kenny Leon, by Samm-Art Williams.

David Byrne, Fatboy Slim and Here Lies Love are causing controversy with their July Broadway debut. The show’s extensive use of prerecorded music has the American Federation of Musicians’ Local 802, up in arms. The Local’s Broadway musical contract stipulate that productions employ 19 live musicians.

In response to the union’s concerns, Byrne and the show’s PR team released a statement on Instagram to lay out the production’s revolutionary format and genre-bending originality. Here Lies Love is not a traditional Broadway musical. The music is drawn outside of the traditional music genre. The performance of the live vocals to pre-recorded, artificial tracks is paramount to its artistic concept. Production has ripped out the seats in the theater and built a dance floor. There is no longer a proscenium stage. The Broadway Theater has been transformed into a nightclub, with every theatergoer immersed in the experience.

Here Lies Love is on Broadway because Broadway must support boundary-pushing creative work. Broadway is also the venue for a well conceived, high-quality show that highlights the valued traditions of specific cultures whose stories have never been on its stages. Here Lies Love does not believe in artistic gatekeepers. Here Lies Love believes in a Broadway for everyone, where new creative forms push the medium and create new traditions and audiences.

I saw Here Lies Love at The Public and not sure what kind of fast talking this is, but this statement rings false and full of how can we cut the costs while sticking it to the audience.

Photo by Murphymade

Prayer for the French Republic, by Joshua Harmon is coming to Broadway this season.This award-winning Off Broadway production played to rave reviews at The Manhattan Theatre Club. The production was the winner of the 2022 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. Broadway performances will begin previews on Tuesday, December 19, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with an official opening night on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. David Cromer directs.

Off Broadway: Tony winner John Rubinstein starts previews June 13 at St. Clement’s in one-man show Eisenhower.

Alicia Keys’ musical Hell’s Kitchen will run at The Public Theater from October 24 – December 10, starring Shoshana Bean. Inspired by Keys’ own life, the new musical features an original score by the 15-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, with a book by Kristoffer Diaz. Hell’s Kitchen will be directed by Michael Greif and choreographed by Camille A. Brown.

Leading the cast will be Maleah Joi Moon as Ali, opposite Bean as Ali’s mother Jersey, with Brandon Victor Dixon as Ali’s father Davis, Chad Carstarphen as Ray, Vanessa Ferguson as Tiny, Crystal Monee Hall as Crystal, Chris Lee as Knuck, Jackie Leon as Jessica, Kecia Lewis as Ali’s piano teacher Miss Liza Jane, Mariand Torres as Maria, and Lamont Walker II as Riq.

Completing the cast are Reid Clarke, Chloe Davis, Nico DeJesus, Timothy L. Edwards, Raechelle Manalo, Sarah Parker, and Niki Saludez, with understudies Badia Farha, Gianna Harris, Onyxx Noel, William Roberson, and Donna Vivino.

The musical is described as a coming-of-age story set in a cramped apartment in the neighborhood of the title near Times Square, where 17-year-old Ali is desperate to get her piece of the New York dream. Ali’s mother is just as determined to protect her daughter from the same mistakes she made. When Ali falls for a talented young drummer, both mother and daughter must face hard truths about race, defiance, and growing up.

The production has set design by Robert Brill, costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting by Natasha Katz, sound by Gareth Owens, and projection design by Peter Nigrini.


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Countdown to The Tony Awards: Who Will and Who Should Win in Best Performance in a Musical



The countdown is on and the winners of the 2022/2023 season will be announced in a live televised ceremony on Sunday, June 11. 

Here is who we think will win and who should.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical 

The Nominees

Annaleigh Ashford, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sara Bareilles, Into the Woods
Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo
Lorna Courtney, & Juliet
Micaela Diamond, Parade 

This to us is a no brainer … Victoria Clark performance has stood out since she brought Kimberly Akimbo to life off-Broadway in 2021. Though Annaleigh is a terrific performer this is Victoria’s year.

Will Win: Victoria Clark
Should Win: Victoria Clark 

J. Harrison Ghee photo by Marc J. Franklin)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical 

The Nominees

Christian Borle, Some Like It Hot
J. Harrison Ghee, Some Like It Hot
Josh Groban, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Brian d’Arcy James, Into the Woods
Ben Platt, Parade
Colton Ryan, New York, New York 

This is another no brainer J. Harrison Ghee gives a textured layered performance. Ben Platt and Josh Groban cancel each other out, though both are riveting performances.

Will win: J. Harrison Ghee
Should win: J. Harrison Ghee 

Bonnie Milligan photo by Joan Marcus

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical 

The Nominees

Julia Lester, Into the Woods
Ruthie Ann Miles, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo
NaTasha Yvette Williams, Some Like It Hot
Betsy Wolfe, & Juliet 

Bonnie Milligan took the theatre community by storm in Head Over Heels, but it was not her time. This year Milligan commands the stage and you definitely remember her performance.

Will win: Bonnie Milligan
Should win: Bonnie Milligan 

Alex Newell photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical 

The Nominees

Kevin Cahoon, Shucked
Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo
Kevin Del Aguila, Some Like It Hot
Jordan Donica, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Alex Newell, Shucked 

Many think Alex Newell was snubbed in 2018 for his performance in Once on This Island. Newell gets standing ovations over at Shucked for “Independently Owned” and they are well deserved. Kevin Del Aguila to me was a breath of fresh air and made me love his performance not once, but twice.

Will win: Alex Newell
Should win:Kevin Del Aguila



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National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Summer Soirée With Barry Manilow, Julie Benko, Adam B. Shapiro, Michael Zegen and More



On June 19 the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Summer Soirée at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers is set to impress. Adam B. Shapiro (from the cast of the award winning Fiddler on The Roof in Yiddish), will be the Master of Ceremonies The celebrity address will be by Michael Zegen, co-star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with a special performance by Julie Benko, the sensational breakout star of Broadway’s Funny Girl. Benko has joined the cast of Harmony coming to Broadway this fall.

Musical Moments from NYTF’s Upcoming Season including a performance by Danny Kornfeld from Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s Broadway Bound New Musical ‘Harmony

The evening will also feature performances from artists who have been part of  NYTF’s stellar productions, including a special appearance by The Mameles, whose singing trio – Maya Jacobson, Raquel Nobile and Jodi Snyder – met while starring in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish.

Throughout the night, attendees also will be treated to performances by: Dani Apple, Joanne H. Borts, Aaron Diskin, Brian Glassman, Sophie Knapp, Annette Ezekiel Kogan, Yosef Kogan, Frank London, Avram Mlotek, Jenny Romaine, Rachel Yucht, Avi Fox-Rosen, Ilya Shneyveys, Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch, and Matt Temkin and the Schechter Bergen Children’s Chorus

Indulge in a delightful cocktail reception followed by an exquisite dinner as you prepare to be dazzled with exclusive previews of musical moments from NYTF’s upcoming 2023-2024 Season.

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Annaleigh Ashford and Josh Groban in Sweeney Todd



Sweeney Todd is a show that thrilled me when I saw the original Broadway production in 1979. The current Broadway production is just as thrilling, with Annaleigh Ashford and Josh Groban making the roles of Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd their own unique creations. The entire cast is excellent.
I wish I had the time to draw everyone in this terrific production. I consider Sweeney Todd to be the best of all of his greats. Each song is so special.
Here in my drawing, I tried to capture the feeling and atmosphere  that Annaleigh and Josh put on that stage.
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Grey House Is Haunting in More Than One Way



Levi Holloway’s Grey House is a mental mind bend. It tries to come off as a haunted thriller with blackouts galore, moments left hanging, loud noises and flashes in the dark of dead things, but deep down it is a lot more than that. The script lacking in text, takes awhile to figure out the ins and outs.

Colby Kipnes, Laurie Metcalf, Sophia Anne Caruso, Millicent Simmonds, Alyssa Emily Marvin, Tatiana Maslany, Eamon Patrick O’Connell Photo by MurphyMade

We starts off as a blizzard rages outside, four feral teenage girls, a young boy (Eamon Patrick O’Connell) and their mother Raleigh (Laurie Metcalf), who is asleep on the couch or is she passed out, entertain themselves. There is Bernie (Millicent Simmonds) who is deaf, a cynical Marlow (Sophia Anne Caruso), the unpredictable Squirrel (Colby Kipnes), and the sweet A1656 (Alyssa Emily Marvin). The girls do what looks like a spell, as a car crashes bringing in Max (Clare Karpen, standing in for Tatiana Maslany) and Henry (Paul Sparks). From the beginning you know nothing good is going to happen.

Paul Sparks, Cyndi Coyne Photo by MurphyMade

Henry called Hank by the girls has broken his ankle and is given “moonshine” for the pain. The refrigerator mysteriously offers this liquid when it feels like it. Henry becomes addicted to the liquid as he encounters first Squirrel, then The Ancient (Cyndi Coyne).

Millicent Simmonds, Laurie Metcalf Photo by MurphyMade

In the meantime Max is manipulated into playing games with these strange children, as Raleigh throws caustic asides and distain to her.

As Henry gets more and more into his “moonshine” addiction he becomes the men who have abused all the inhabitants of this purgatory. The house it turns out is a cross over between heaven and hell or is it way station where karma is played out? It is a surprisingly that this play is written by a man, because at the crux of this play is men will always hurt, disappoint and destroy the female gender.

Director Joe Mantello (Wicked) has used set designer Scott Pask, sound designer Tom Gibbons and lighting designer Natasha Katz to make Grey House a living breathing entity that haunts from within. His cast is uniformly excellent with Sophia Anne Caruso bringing yet another haunting performance to life with a scalding clarity. Metcalf brings to mind every Stephen King novel and gives a masterclass in acting. Karpen gives us a women who is lost in mourning  due to her father just passing and a long-dead sister whom she loved. We see the weight put upon her that ultimately binds her to this place. Sparks is the epitome of a week man who fight is within himself.

This play leaves more questions than answers that are left to the audience to figure out. At the heart of this story is grief and how we are trapped and make our own prisons instead of moving to the light.

Grey House: Lyceum Theatre, 149 W 45th Street, through September 23rd.

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