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Living Her Dream: Julia Abueva Makes Broadway Debut

Living Her Dream: Julia Abueva Makes Broadway Debut

'You have to want it more than anything. You have to be willing to WORK for it.' - Julia Abueva

KPOP"You have to want it more than anything. You have to be willing to WORK for it. Sacrifice for it. It's not as glamorous as it seems. That's why the passion needs to be for the work, not the fame," those were striking words of Julia Abueva, one of the stars of the Broadway musical KPOP, inspired by a global phenomenon.

In 2014, Abueva was an alternate for Kim, the lead character in the West End-hit musical "Miss Saigon," when it got revived 25 years later. She was only 18 back then.

Today, at 26, she stars in a previous Off-Broadway production, described by New York Times as a reinvention from its 2017 version.

For her role as Sonoma, Abueva was fortunate not to audition, "I continued to participate and workshop the show in preparation for its Broadway debut."

Sonoma is the leader of the girl group RTMIS. In past iterations, she was the selected artist from the girl group that would later threaten MwE's (the solo artist, played by real-life K-pop artist Luna) position in their record label. That is no longer a part of the plot in the Broadway iteration, according to Abueva.

For many reasons, including the pandemic, it took five years for KPOP to jump on Broadway. The show is in previews, with an opening night set for November 27 (originally November 20).

She further painted the scenario of changes in the show from its 2017 Off-Broadway version to its Broadway incarnation, "It was a very immersive experience (think 'Sleep No More') where audience members got to walk around and explore the ins and outs of a K-Pop factory where they got to choose their journey that eventually still brought everyone together at the end for a one-night concert.

"The Broadway version is different because now the show works around the audience [at the Circle in the Square]. There are still immersive elements, but the plot is much more linear now."

The former Singapore-raised singer-actress who moved to the Big Apple to pursue her dreams of performing on Broadway is fast becoming a reality. With KPOP--it seemed unreal.

"I still pinch myself sometimes seeing my face outside the theater or on the playbills. I'm living my dream."

Amid New York City's global culture with a significant influence on entertainment, tourism, dining, art, fashion, and sports--Abueva's life is like a well a city that never sleeps.

"It's been a long emotional rollercoaster. I don't think I would've stuck to it if I didn't love it as much as I do. You gotta love it and be in it for the right reasons, or you will burn out quickly."

Doing theater in Singapore and London back then, she found New York like everything else, "I'm familiar with the discipline and culture that comes with being a theater actor, but experiencing that now as a Broadway actor takes on a whole new meaning!

"My whole life revolves around my job as an actor in this show. The level of discipline is insane. I feel like a professional athlete. We are, in a way."

When asked how is it like working with South Korean talents, especially Luna, in KPOP?

"It's been incredible working with the real K-pop idols in this show (Luna, Min, BoHyung, Kevin Woo). They inspired me so much because they did the 'real thing' of what we are trying to portray on stage every night (which is to be K-pop idols), and they are also all incredible and hardworking people and have all become my very dear friends."

For her, KPOP, the musical, is vital in representing Asian heritage and talent on stage--for it allows Asians to showcase that they, too, have much to offer and hopefully opens doors for more Asians.

"When a show is written for or previously performed by a specific race or ethnicity--it's much more difficult to be considered for it. It's the association that already exists in people's minds."

The exhilarating original musical KPOP offers the energy of a stadium concert that meets the talent and passion of a favorite musical.

Packed with pulse-pounding new music that promises electrifying choreography, it explores the relentless discipline, raw talent, and commercial ambition behind the international sensation.

Featuring a cast of K-pop and musical theater stars, it's a multimedia experience unlike anything else on Broadway.

Apart from Abueva, KPOP stars Luna as MwE, Bohyung as Tiny, Major Curda as Harry, Jinwoo Jung as Juny, Jiho Kang as Lex, Amy Keum as Ivy and understudy for MwE, James Kho as Wooyeon, Marina Kondo as an understudy for MwE and Ruby, Eddy Lee as Sky, Joshua Lee as Timmy X, Jully Lee as Ruby, Lina Rose Lee as Swing, Timothy H. Lee as Swing, Abraham Lim as Jae Ik, Kate Mina Lin as Miyeon, Aubie Merrylees as Harry, Min as Riya, Patrick Park as Swing and understudy for Harry, Zachary Noah Piser as Brad, Kevin Woo as Jun Hyuk, and John Yi as Danny.

Some names of the creatives behind KPOP are Jason Kim for the book; Helen Park for music, lyrics, music production, and arrangements; Max Vernon for music and lyrics; Sujin Kim-Ramsey for musical direction; Jennifer Weber for choreography; Gabriel Hainer Evansohn for scenic design; Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi for costume design; Jiyoun Chang for lighting design; Peter Fitzgerald and Andrew Keister for sound design, and Teddy Bergman for stage direction.

Grateful Heart, Some Advice

Among the names that helped shape Julia Abueva, the Filipina artist is most thankful for in her journey as a musical theater actor are Lea Salonga, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams, Baby Barredo, Nacho Tambunting, Eloisa Amalia Tan, Adrian and Tracie Pang, and Beatrice Chia and Mark Richmond.

As a piece of advice for those who want to make it to the West End and Broadway, she has this to share, "If your head and your heart are in the right place and you are working to be better every day, you will get there. Don't ever quit, no matter how hard it gets."

Photos: Julia Abueva/KPOP on Broadway

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