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Interview: Drew Gasparini of THE KARATE KID - THE MUSICAL at STAGES St. Louis

THE KARATE KID - THE MUSICAL World Premiere at STAGES St. Louis

Interview: Drew Gasparini of THE KARATE KID - THE MUSICAL at STAGES St. Louis

The world premiere and pre-Broadway tryout of THE KARATE KID - The Musical will open at STAGES St. Louis in the Ross Family Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center on June 1, 2022. Eight preview performances will begin May 25, 2022. This is a unique opportunity for St. Louis audiences. It is the first time they will experience a pre-Broadway tryout of a new work before it makes it Broadway premiere. BroadwayWorld sat down with composer and lyricist Drew Gasparini to talk about his work, the creative team and their vision for THE KARATE KID - The Musical.

Drew Gasparini is a composer who has been writing Broadway scores for more than a decade-and-a-half. He shared that in mid-2018 the producers from Gorgeous Entertainment were reaching out to his agents asking about his interest in submitting songs for a new musical production of THE KARATE KID - The Musical. Drew said, "I rolled my eyes because I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of the musical and how silly it sounded." He talked about how we are in an age on Broadway where there are a lot of movie adaptations that look like cash grabs for producers. He admits he was one of those artists who had his nose in the air at that entire idea. "Thankfully," he recounts, "the producers kept persisting and asking him for songs for 6-months. Frankly, I really don't know what it was about my music that they saw as connecting tissue to this piece."

He signed on after speaking with director Amon Miyamoto and meeting with screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen who wrote the movie and was now writing the book for the musical. Gasparini calls Miyamoto a Japanese genius visionary director. He explained that once Miyamoto and Kamen explained their vision that the director and book writer kept coming back, asking him to write the score. So Gasparini rewatched the movie and said that he realized that this project sings. He said, "The old adage is that you sing when the emotion is so high in a musical that there is nothing left to say." Gasparini explained that this story is about teenagers being lost and needing guidance. The high degree of emotionality just made sense for a musical.

When taking about the creative team and this production, he says that what Amon Miyamoto is doing with the staging is just spectacular. It is not a copy paste of the movie. The story is intact, so Karate Kid fans will be thrilled with it, but what is happening theatrically is exciting and exactly why he became involved.

The creative team includes Kamen, Miyamoto and Gasparini, plus choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid, and set designer Derek McLane. The team was assembled by lead producer Kumiko Yoshi, who he calls an understated genius, that knew exactly who she wanted on her creative team. Gasparini says the Madrids' choreography is to a musical theater audience today what Bob Fosse's choreography was back in the 60's and 70's. He tells BWW, "They are absolutely changing what movement looks like on stage." Gasparini calls Derek McLane's set design absolutely beautiful and conveyed that even the sound designers and lighting designers are decorated Broadway veterans. He reasons that a decorated creative team saying yes to this project speaks levels to the integrity of this piece.

When asked about the tone and motif of his original score, Gasparini says that show is set it in the 1980's so there are elements of a fun 80's pop/rock sound in the score. He explained that the score is a wide spectrum, and the songs are written to fit the heart and emotion of the characters. This is a story of a hero's journey where there is good and evil. Gasparini approached the evil side by tapping into a dark, industrial, metallic, angry, vengeful sound. The in-between stuff with the young cast is written as catchy and emotional pop music. On the good side, the light where Mr. Miyagi lives, is written in the style of Okinawan music since the character is from Okinawa, Japan. After studying with musicians in Japan, Gasparini said he purchased a sanshin and wrote all of Mr. Miyagi's songs on this three-stringed, snakeskin instrument. He credits the producer with flying him to Okinawa to give him a multicultural experience that adds to the authenticity of this score. Gasparini says, "I am really proud of this score. It is the hardest I've ever worked on something."

St. Louis audiences will have the bonus of seeing Broadway veterans Kate Baldwin and Alan H. Green as part of this cast of thirty. Gasparini shares that as vetted and experienced as the Broadway actors are that there is zero ego present. They bring so much to roles that were smaller in the movie that have been expanded in this production. He says that they have shown paternal influences on a young cast with many making their stage debut and their Broadway debut down the line. "It's amazing to see that they have support from people who have done this for decades now," shares Gasparini.

Gasparini says he hopes that ticket buyer will commit to buying a ticket and give this show a chance. He says that while this production is one step away from Broadway, and may experience some changes, that his production is very close to complete. He brags, "this production is looking really good and will defy they audience's expectations." He believes this story will speaks to generations of theater goers from the stage.

THE KARATE KID - The Musical opens at STAGE St. Louis, in previews on May 25th, with opening night on June 1, 2022, at The Ross Family Theater in The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. For tickets or more information, visit stagesstlouis.org.



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