Review Round Up: KPOP, Circle in the Square Theatre

We take a look at what critics have been saying about the latest musical to open on Broadway….

Hollywood Reporter: “Despite its plethora of incidents, the show’s book, written by Jason Kim, proves its weakest element, with the overlong proceedings becoming repetitive and meandering. But the paper-thin characterizations and hackneyed dialogue don’t prevent KPOP from being great fun. The production’s elaborate mechanics are expertly executed, with the audience shepherded through the imaginatively conceived settings with clockwork efficiency. The mostly youthful ensemble is terrifically talented — some of them, admittedly, more so musically than dramatically — delivering the infectious original score composed by Helen Park and Max Vernon (in English and Korean) with pulsing energy.”

Time Out: *** “KPOP doesn’t stint on concert-style numbers, and that’s where this production shines. Directed by Teddy Bergman, the well-drilled young cast performs Helen Park and Max Vernon’s exuberant pastiche songs (several of which are new to this version of the show) with panache, executing Jennifer Weber’s rigorous choreography with zippy synchronized swagger and verve.”

Entertainment Weekly: “Instead, and perhaps a bit unsurprisingly, KPOP really, truly shines when it comes to the music. Because K-Pop encapsulates so many different genres, writers Max Vernon and Helen Park are given free rein to dabble in a variety of musical stylings, from RTMIS’ bubbly hyperpop bop “Gin & Tonic” to MwE’s soaring single “Mute Bird.” Each feel like an actual K-Pop title track — RTMIS’ “Perfect” could be an homage to artists like Red Velvet, while F8’s “Meant 2 B” might as well be SEVENTEEN’s “Home” — and are flawlessly delivered by KPOP‘s impressive cast (most of which are making their Broadway debut), whose superb vocals never waver even while performing Jennifer Weber’s most complicated choreography.”

Variety: “The multi-talented performers interact exquisitely with each other (and convincingly hit K-pop’s standards of uniformity), as Kim’s bright, delightful book leaves room to reveal each character’s deep yearning to be seen as an individual while understanding what it takes to succeed. The vulnerability behind what it takes to go big or go home is the secret, beating heart of “KPOP,” a pulse that brings life to every chorus of its playlist.”

The Wrap: “The concert portions of the evening are a cotton-candy delight. Helen Park and Max Vernon have written a handful of pulsing K-pop gems that feel like they’d fit right into a Seoul top 40 playlist, with pulsing beats, solo vocal runs, tight harmonies and occasional interjections of rap. The talented cast deliver the goods, aided by Jennifer Weber’s crisp and energetic choreography, Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi’s flashy costumes, Jiyoun Chang’s dramatic lighting and Gabriel Hainer Evansohn’s sleek scenic design.” “There’s a lot in the musical KPOP that makes for a successful show, including a winning ensemble, melodies that sneak into your ears and stay there, and rhythm-perfect choreography. But it has a curious inertia. It lacks drama. Not in the sense of tension between its characters—there’s plenty of bickering to observe between the characters at the musical’s fictional K-pop label as they prepare for a big American showcase—but in the sense of a thrust, an arc, propulsion. It feels as if the show has rushed out into the open water of Broadway and then gotten stuck, like a ship unable to catch the wind.”

Theater Mania: “Musically, however, KPOP has never sounded better. The songs, by Helen Park and Max Vernon, are a loving homage to the genre, which is essentially a more manic version of American and Swedish pop music from the last 20 years, with lyrics in a giddy cocktail of English and Korean. Any of the anthemic power ballads would make respectable national entries in the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Talkin “Under Teddy Bergman’s direction, the show is in constant motion and the performers make use of the entire theatre, but the book scenes are flat and uninvolving. The characters are show-biz archetypes, albeit placed in a milieu in which most Broadway regulars (or at least this one) are unfamiliar.”

New York “I loved “KPOP” when I saw it five years ago Off Broadway,  but the “KPOP” on Broadway is not the same show as the one in 2017, even though it has the same title, the same book writer and songwriters (and many of the same songs), the same director and choreographer, even the same storylines.  It’s still exciting, sometimes thrilling — but it’s a packaged entertainment rather than an adventure in theater.”

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