Broadway Cancellations: KPOP The Musical

There are many reasons a seemingly successful show on Broadway may close, including low ticket sales, limited engagement, contract endings, and much more. In the case of KPOP, a groundbreaking musical with the first female Asian Broadway composer Helen Park and an almost entirely Asian cast, the show was canceled after only two weeks of opening. Many are left to wonder about the deeper reasons for such a quick closing. 

KPOP the musical surrounds a boy group and a girl group facing different pressures in the K-pop entertainment world. The musical explores different aspects of racial identity and the K-pop industry standards through each group’s unique perspective. The musical consists of many performances from fictionalized K-pop groups as they break their music into American markets. The playwright, Jason Kim, noted “It’s been a lens for me to think about my immigration [to the US], to think about what it means to be a Korean-American here. [To] think about myself as someone who grew up abroad, listening to different kinds of music that had a relationship to American pop music and just sort of thinking about all of these things as a way to understand the world. I thought that was really something worth pursuing.” Overall the musical shows great representation, unique and necessary themes, and many breathtaking musical performances. 

Broadway has experienced a myriad of changes amidst the worldwide pandemic. On March 12, 2020, all 41 Broadway theaters were shut down for 18 months. This difficult time caused many popular running shows, including Mean Girls, Dear Evan Hansen, and Frozen, to finalize their closing due to low-ticket sales and the after-effects of the COVID-19 virus. However, as vaccines arose, Broadway doors reopened, and ticket sales slowly increased. Though KPOP the musical came after Broadway was reopened, the popularity of shows has changed in level ever since the outbreak. Moreover, some cast members of KPOP the musical came in contact with COVID-19, canceling sold-out previews and only quickening the show’s cancellation. However, many believe another reason for the show’s closing is the unfair categorization of the musical as “foreign.” 

On December 2, 2022, KPOP the Musical received negative feedback from a New York Times reporter named Jesse Green. The producers of KPOP the musical asked for an apology and noted that though they are open to criticism, Green’s review showed casual racism with blatant insensitivity. His review described the lighting as “squint-inducing,” correlating to a harmful stereotype Asian Americans are of the subject. In addition, Green explained that those who do not speak Korean would not be able to understand the performance, to which the producers responded by saying, “Is a Broadway show valid only if it is centered on and catering exclusively to a white, English-speaking audience?” This review sparked much controversy, but it also uncovered a larger historical issue regarding the representation of Asians on Broadway. 

The Asian American Performers Action Coalition noted that 6.3% of 2018-2019 Broadway roles were for Asian Americans. The percentages for directors, designers, and producers all were above 90% white. Further, when Asian Americans are on Broadway, the narratives are written from a white perspective, with Asian cultures exploited and perceived as exotic. Unlike “The King and I” and “Miss Saigon,” musicals that involve such narratives, KPOP the musical presents Asian Americans in the current day with a contemporary and accurate portrayal. For many usual theater-goers, KPOP the musical is unusual in this representation and diversity, which may be the cause for its unfortunate closure. 

Though KPOP the musical may go forward with tours and a Las Vegas residency, it is unknown what the exact next steps are for the musical’s future. However, even with only a few weeks of performance, the musical has shown significant progress in breaking the familiar continuity of Broadway narratives focusing solely on white perspectives. Moving forward, we hope for more progress to uphold new and authentic stories like KPOP the musical. 

Works Cited

“KPOP Musical Demands Apology After ‘Racist’ New York Times Review “. Nypost.Com, 2023, Accessed 17 Jan 2023.

“Why ‘KPOP,’ The First Broadway Show To Tell A Korean Story, Closed In Just Two Weeks”. NBC News, 2022, Accessed 17 Jan 2023.

“Reasons Why Broadway Shows Close”. Broadway Bulletin, 2015, Accessed 17 Jan 2023.

Hall, Nate et al. “The Show Must Go On: Broadway Theater Struggles To Recover From The Pandemic – The Tufts Daily”. The Tufts Daily, 2022,,was%20only%20half%20the%20battle. Accessed 17 Jan 2023.

“‘KPOP’ Off-Broadway Show Explores Race, Identity & The Fame Machine | Billboard – Billboard”. Billboard.Com, 2023, Accessed 20 Jan 2023.