The world premiere and pre-Broadway preview of THE KARATE KID THE MUSICAL will open at STAGES St. Louis at the Ross Family Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center on June 1, 2022. Eight preview performances will begin on May 25, 2022. is a unique opportunity for the public of Saint-Louis. This is the first time they will experience a pre-Broadway trial of a new work before it premieres on Broadway. BroadwayWorld caught up 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 over a decade and a half. He shared that in mid-2018, producers at Gorgeous Entertainment contacted his agents to ask if he would like to submit songs for a new musical production of The Karate Kid. Drew said, “I rolled my eyes because I couldn’t get the idea of the musical and how silly it sounded.” He talked about how we’re in a time on Broadway where there are a lot of movie adaptations that feel like money grabs for producers. He admits he was one of those artists who had his nose in the air at the whole idea. “Fortunately,” he recounts, “the producers kept persisting and asking him for songs for 6 months. Frankly, I really don’t know what was in my music that they considered tissue. connection to this room.”
He signed on after speaking with director Amon Miyamoto and meeting screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen who wrote the film and was now writing the musical’s book. Gasparini calls Miyamoto a visionary director of Japanese genius. He explained that once Miyamoto and Kamen explained their vision, the director and screenwriter kept coming back, asking him to write the score. So Gasparini reviewed the film and said he realized that this project was singing. He said: “The old adage says you sing when the emotion is so strong in a musical that there’s nothing left to say.” Gasparini explained that this story is about teenagers who are lost and in need of guidance. The high degree of emotionality made sense for a musical.
Talking about the creative team and this production, he says what Amon Miyamoto does with the direction is nothing short of spectacular. This is not a copy-paste from the movie. The story is intact, so Karate Kid fans will be delighted, but what’s happening indoors is exciting and that’s exactly why he got 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 put together by lead producer Kumiko Yoshi, whom he calls a quiet genius, who knew exactly who she wanted on her creative team. Gasparini says the Madrids’ choreography today is to a musical theater audience what Bob Fosse’s choreography was in the ’60s and ’70s. He told BWW: “They absolutely change what movement looks like on stage. ” Gasparini calls Derek McLane’s set design absolutely stunning, and says even the sound designers and lighting designers are decorated Broadway veterans. He reasons that a decorated creative team saying yes to this project speaks volumes about the integrity of this piece.
Asked about the tone and motif of its original score, Gasparini says the show is set in the 1980s, so there are elements of a fun 80s pop/rock sound in the score. He explained that the score is broad spectrum and the songs are written to suit the hearts and emotions of the characters. This is the 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 and vengeful sound. The stuff in between with the young cast is written like catchy, emotional pop music. On the bright 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 bought a sanshin and wrote all of Mr. Miyagi’s songs on the three-string snakeskin instrument. He credits the producer for taking him to Okinawa to give him a multicultural experience that adds to the authenticity of this score. Gasparini says: “I’m really proud of this score. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything.”
St. Louis audiences will have the benefit of seeing Broadway veterans Kate Baldwin and Alan H. Greene as part of this cast of thirty. Gasparini shares that, as controlled and experienced as Broadway actors, there is no ego present. They bring so much to roles that were smaller in the film that have been expanded in this production. He says they showed fatherly influences on a young cast, with many making their stage debuts and Broadway debuts down the line. “It’s amazing to see that they have the support of people who have been doing this for decades now,” shares Gasparini.
Gasparini says he hopes the ticket buyer will commit to buying a ticket and give this show a chance. He says that although this production is one step away from Broadway and may see some changes, his production is nearing completion. He boasts, “this production looks really good and will defy audience expectations.” He believes this story will speak to generations of theatergoers from the stage.
THE KARATE KID THE MUSICAL opens at STAGE St. Louis, premiering May 25, with an opening night June 1, 2022, at the Ross Family Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. For tickets or more information, visit stagesstlouis.org.