Despite Coronavirus, K-pop Theater Show Seeks Performers

    23 July 2020

    Most theaters in America may be closed, but one musical theater show is not letting that stop it from preparing.

    "KPOP" is a musical exploring the world of Korean pop music. The producers are doing a video-based casting call worldwide in hopes of being ready when live performances restart.

    This undated image released by DKC/O&M shows Jason Kim playwright of the musical
    This undated image released by DKC/O&M shows Jason Kim playwright of the musical "KPOP," a musical theater show exploring the world of Korean pop music. (DKC/O&M via AP)

    Jason Kim is the playwright, or writer, of the musical. "We really hope as soon as possible to get into a room with all these people and see them in person," he told the Associated Press.

    Producers are looking for Korean, Korean American and Asian American men and women in their 20s. They "must be excellent singers" with a strong pop sound and great dancers. Knowing K-pop music is, of course, helpful.

    Claire Burke is a casting director at Tara Rubin Casting in New York. She said she and her team have a "very tall ask." They are looking for performers who have all the energy and lovability of pop stars and also serious acting skills.

    "It's about the shine and the performance and the dancing and the singing — that's huge," she said. But people also need to be able to really feel the emotion of it.

    Those who hope to be in the musical are asked to send a video of themselves singing a pop or K-pop song and a video of their dance moves. Submissions have so far come from the United States, South Korea, Britain, Canada, Japan and Kazakhstan and other countries.

    When "KPOP" returns, it will represent a rare thing — a live theater production with a nearly all-Asian cast. The last time New York City had anything like that was in 2015 with "Allegiance." It was a musical based on American actor George Takei's life in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

    Kim said he strongly believes the right performers are out there and have been "for a really long time."

    "KPOP," which had its first showing in New York City in 2017, follows the lives of three sets of performers. It follows a boy band, a girl band and a young woman singer as they try to gain success in the American music market.

    Theater critics have had great things to say about "KPOP."

    In the original musical, crowds followed different performers from room to room. Kim is rewriting it for a more traditional theater setting and songwriter Helen Park is adding new songs.

    The show is changing just as K-pop music is. In the years since it began, Americans have learned more about the music, including such groups as BTS, EXO and BLACKPINK. K-pop fans have also spoken online about everything from Black Lives Matter to Donald Trump.

    How casting is happening

    Kim has been helping the casting people go through hundreds of submissions to cast for 12 performers.

    Candidates who the team likes are sent material from the show to record and submit. The next step is a live video meeting with the creative team. Then, if chosen, candidates receive a message that they will see everyone at rehearsals — whenever that happens.

    Burke's team is showing understanding about the quality of submissions because of the coronavirus crisis. The usual process has candidates in a room together learning dance moves at the same time. It also has a trained actor as an audition reader along with a person who knows the music. None of that is happening for the online process.

    Instead, the "KPOP" team has to deal with poor home microphones, bad lighting and the real chance that a candidate's mother or sister is holding the cellular phone to record.

    "I don't want to say forgiving, but I am definitely more mindful that everyone has a very different situation" when they are recording and submitting a video, Burke said.

    She said the most exciting thing about her job is when she finds people who may never have thought about musical theater as a career.

    I'm Alice Bryant.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    pop - n. music that is popular

    casting - n. assigning roles for a play, movie or something else

    submission - n. a document, proposal, piece of writing, or something else that is given to someone to be considered or approved

    internment - n. the act of putting someone in a prison for political reasons or during a war

    band - n. a usually small group of musicians who play or perform music together

    candidate - n. a person who is being considered for a job, position, award or something else

    rehearsal - n. an event at which a person or group practices an activity (such as singing, dancing, or acting) in order to prepare for a public performance

    audition - n. a short performance to show the talents of someone who is being considered for a role