Broadway's 'KPOP' will close on Sunday

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Broadway's 'KPOP' will close on Sunday
A scene from the Broadway version of the musical “KPOP,” in previews at Circle in the Square Theater, in New York, Oct. 12, 2022. “KPOP,” a new Broadway musical both celebrating and exploring the wildly popular Korean music genre, will close on Sunday, just two weeks after opening. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- “KPOP,” a new Broadway musical both celebrating and exploring the wildly popular Korean music genre, will close Sunday, just two weeks after opening.

The producers had hoped that the large and youthful global fan base for K-pop music would lead to a strong audience for the show, but instead it faced anemic ticket sales that made it impossible to keep going.

The show’s grosses were consistently well below what it costs to run a Broadway musical; during the week that ended Dec. 4, it grossed just $126,493, making it the lowest-grossing musical now running. Its average ticket price was $32.06, which is also unsustainably low; the industry average that week was $128.34.

“KPOP,” rich with performance numbers in a mix of English and Korean, tells the story of a solo singer, as well as a boy band and a girl group, all preparing for a U.S. concert tour. They are contending not only with the rigors of the performance style, but also some tensions with their producer, a documentary filmmaker, and among themselves.

The show received mixed reviews, including a largely negative one in The New York Times. (The producers complained that the Times review was racially insensitive; Times editors defended the review.)

The show, produced by Tim Forbes and Joey Parnes, was capitalized for up to $14 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; that money has not been recouped. At the time of its closing, “KPOP” will have played 44 preview performances and 17 regular performances.

“KPOP” features an original score, with songs by Helen Park and Max Vernon, and a book by Jason Kim. Directed by Teddy Bergman and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, “KPOP” was conceived by Kim and an immersive theater company called Woodshed Collective; its production life began with a fully immersive and more experimental nonprofit staging in 2017 at ART/New York Theaters, produced by Ars Nova in association with Ma-Yi Theater Company and Woodshed Collective.

The Broadway production, with a cast that included several alumni of K-pop groups, including the show’s star, Luna, began previews Oct. 13 and, after a string of absences, cancellations and postponements caused by COVID and other infections among the company, opened Nov. 27 at Circle in the Square. That theater is among the smallest of the 41 Broadway houses; for KPOP, it is configured with 687 seats arranged on three sides of the stage.

Overall sales on Broadway remain softer than they were before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and that has made survival even harder in an industry always characterized by more failures than successes. This fall, Gabriel Byrne’s solo show, “Walking With Ghosts,” also cut short its run because of weak box office sales; only a handful of this season’s shows appear to be on a path to possible profitability.

“KPOP” was a milestone for Broadway in several ways: The first Korean-centered show written by Korean Americans, the first with an Asian female composer, and one of only a handful of shows with a cast that is predominantly Asian and Asian American. The production said that its final performance would include a panel discussion about Asian American and Pacific Islander representation on Broadway.

The show, like many musicals on Broadway, is planning to produce a cast album. It is scheduled to be released in February by Sony Masterworks Broadway.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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