THE MUSICAL’s world premiere and Broadway preview will open on June 1, 2022 at STAGES St. Louis at the Ross Home Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. Eight previews will begin on May 25, 2022. This is a unique opportunity for St. Louis viewers. This is their first Broadway audition of a new work before its Broadway debut. BroadwayWorld sat down with composer and lyricist Drew Gasparini to talk about his work, creative team and their vision for THE KARATE KID THE MUSICAL.
Drew Gasparini is a composer who has been writing Broadway scores for over a decade. He shared that in mid-2018, the producer at Gorgeous Entertainment was contacting his agent to ask if he would be interested in submitting songs for Karate Kid’s new music production. “I rolled my eyes because I couldn’t understand the idea of a musical and how stupid it sounded,” Drew said. He talked about our time on Broadway, where there are so many movie adaptations that look like the producers’ cash grab. He admits he’s one of those artists who scoffs at the whole idea. “Thank goodness,” he recalls, “for 6 months the producers kept insisting on his songs. Frankly, I really don’t know how they think my music connects the organization to this piece.”
Signed after speaking with director Amon Miyamoto and meeting with screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote the film and is now writing a book for the musical. Gasparini called Miyamoto a visionary director of Japanese genius. He explained that once Miyamoto and Kamen explained their vision, the director and writer kept coming back to ask him to write the soundtrack. So Gasparini rewatched the film, saying he realized the project would sing. “The old adage is that when the mood in a musical is so high that there’s nothing to say, you sing,” he said. Gasparini explained that the story is about teens who are lost and in need of guidance. A high level of emotion makes sense for a musical.
Talking about the creative team and production, he said what Amon Miyamoto did on stage was spectacular. It’s not a copy-paste of a movie. The story is complete so Karate Kid fans will be excited, but what’s going on in the drama is exciting and that’s why he’s involved.
The creative team includes Kamen, Miyamoto and Gasparini, as well as choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid, and set designer Derek McLane. The team was formed by lead producer Kumiko Yoshi, who he called a low-key talent who knew exactly who she wanted from her creative team. Gasparini said that for today’s musical theater audience, the choreography of the Madrid people is like the choreography of Bob Fosse in the ’60s and ’70s. “They absolutely changed the action on stage,” he told BWW. Gasparini called Derek McLane’s set design beautiful and conveyed that even the sound and lighting designers were Broadway veterans. His reasoning was that a decorated creative team said “yes” to the project, which speaks to the integrity of the piece.
When asked about the tone and theme of his original soundtrack, Gasparini said the show was set in the 1980s, so the soundtrack contained interesting 80s pop/rock sound elements. He explained that the soundtrack is extensive and the songs are written to fit the hearts and emotions of the characters. It’s a story of a hero’s journey, good and bad. Gasparini approaches the evil side by digging into a dark, industrial, metallic, angry, vengeful voice. The middle part of the young cast is written as catchy and emotional pop. On the plus side, Hikaru, where Mr. Miyagi lives, is written in the Okinawan music style, as the character is from Okinawa, Japan. After studying with musicians in Japan, Gasparini said he bought a shamisen and used it to write all of Mr. Miyagi’s songs. He credits the authenticity of the score with the fact that the producers gave him a multicultural experience by flying him to Okinawa. “I’m very proud of this score. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Gasparini said.
St. Louis audiences will be honored to see Broadway veterans Kate Baldwin and Alan H. Green as part of the cast of 30. Gasparini believes that as vetted and experienced as Broadway actors are, there is a zero ego. They bring a lot to the film’s smaller characters, which are expanded in this production. He said they showed a fatherly love for the young cast, many of whom made their debuts and made their Broadway debuts. “It’s amazing that they have the support of people who have been doing it for decades,” shared Gasparini.
Gasparini said he wants ticket buyers to commit to buying tickets and giving the show a chance. He said that while the production is just one step away from Broadway and may undergo some changes, his work is very close to completion. “The production looks very good and will defy audience expectations,” he boasted. He believes the story will be told on stage to generations of audiences.
THE KARATE KID THE MUSICAL will open on May 25 at STAGE St. Louis, with previews at the Ross Family Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center on June 1, 2022. For tickets or more information, visit stagestlouis.org.