Producing a Broadway show under normal circumstances is a risky, monumental task. Mounting them in a post-lockdown era is an even greater challenge. This past week, two shows have announced their closure, leaving producers to wonder what suddenly went wrong.
KPOP, a first of its kind, high energy musical that explores the hugely popular South Korean genre, will close on Sunday, Dec. 11th after 44 previews and 17 performances. Tickets available here.
A press release sent earlier this week stated:
200 complimentary tickets are being offered to AAPI community members and youth for the final performance, followed by a panel discussion with top AAPI theatre artists. Panelists will include the first Asian American playwright to win a Tony Award, David Henry Hwang; the first Asian female composer in Broadway history, KPOP’s Helen Park; Korean playwright Hansol Jung; and actor Pun Bandhu. This performance is supported by TAAF (The Asian American Foundation) in collaboration with Gold House, AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition), and Ma-Yi Theater Company. KPOP is making history by being the first Broadway production to feature Korean stories written by Korean American creatives, along with 18 cast members, all of AAPI descent, making their Broadway debuts.
Those who follow Broadway scuttlebutt are aware of the public drama between the New York Times’ reviewer Jesse Green and KPOP’s producers.
This reviewer saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it. While far from perfect, it was energetic, at times thought provoking and musically memorable. Those who miss it can listen to the Original Cast Recording, scheduled to be released on February 24 2023. It’s Available for preorder now
The show initially premiered to great fanfare Off Broadway in 2017 at Off Broadway’s Ars Nova. Manhattan Digest’s review of that iteration can be found here.
The second casualty to hit Broadway is Ain’t No Mo. Yesterday, producer Lee Daniels announced that the history making piece, starring Jordan E. Cooper (who also wrote the show) will close on Sunday December 18th after just 22 previews and 21 regular performances. It is currently running at the Belasco Theatre. Tickets and information available here. A press release, sent late last evening described the piece:
Having premiered to overwhelming acclaim at The Public Theater, Ain’t No Mo’ dares to ask the incendiary question, “What if the U.S. government attempted to solve racism … by offering Black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa?” The answer comes in the form of an outrageous and high-octane comedy about being Black in today’s America., Ain’t No Mo’ seamlessly blends sketch comedy, satire and avant garde theater to leave audiences crying with laughter—and thinking through the tears
Cooper is the youngest Black American playwright to debut on Broadway.
Manhattan Digest missed that production but caught it earlier this week and found it to be an incredibly funny, slick and smart show that airs everything with no excuse.
On a personal note, I find it heartbreaking that these shows are folding so soon. Still, it’s praiseworthy to note that producers were willing to back them and bring them to Broadway. Both show surpass a conventional Broadway experience and will hopefully pave the way for others equally as daring and unique. As the late genius Stephen Sondheim wrote: Art isn’t easy/Every minor detail is a major decision/ Have to keep things in scale/ Have to hold to your vision.
To those artists struggling to keep their artistic vision, remember that you belong here. Keep going.