'KPOP' composer becomes 1st Asian woman to be nominated for a Tony for best original score
Composer Helen Park made history Tuesday after nabbing a Tony Award nomination for best original score in a Broadway show.
Park, along with co-composer Max Vernon, received the nod for their work in the musical “KPOP,” which debuted on Broadway in November. The nomination makes Park the first Asian woman to be nominated in the category.
The musical, originally premiering off-Broadway in September 2017, was also nominated for best costume design of a musical and best choreography.
“Crying thinking of my amazing creative team and cast who worked tirelessly to bring something so new and honest to the Broadway stage,” Park wrote in an Instagram post. “So much love to the @kpopbroadway fam. We did it. I’m so very honored for this recognition.”
Park and Vernon were nominated alongside Marc Shaiman for “Some Like It Hot,” Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally for “Shucked,” Cameron Crowe and Tom Kitt for “Almost Famous,” and David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori for “Kimberly Akimbo.”
Best original score is one of several categories being recognized in “KPOP,” the first Broadway production about a Korean story, written by Korean creatives and performed by a predominantly Asian cast.
The "KPOP" achievements come despite it being canceled just two weeks after its November opening, prompting backlash and criticisms of the New York City musical theater industry.
Park previously said a confluence of factors, including finance struggles and marketing obstacles, along with Broadway’s history of exclusion toward those of Asian descent, contributed to the show’s demise.
Most of the Asian-centric narratives that have run on prestigious Broadway stages, Park said, have been written by white men. Citing plays like “The King and I” and “Miss Saigon,” she added that Asian cultures, packaged to seem like exotic fantasies, are more “comfortable” for mainstream audiences compared to something like “KPOP,” which deals with contemporary subjects.
“Americans in general are so used to seeing Asians as exotic and different,” Park said. “We all talk about the same things, like relationships, breakups, gossip. I go through the same thing that MwE, our main character, goes through, contemplating how I can be an artist and a human. … And I think that is very jarring to theatergoers.”
Ultimately Broadway still has a long way to go before it’s an equitable industry for acts like “KPOP,” its cast and crew said.
“What needs to be done to give productions like ‘KPOP’ a first shot is genuine curiosity and reverence for unfamiliar cultures and stories,” cast member John Yi said. “As consumers, I think we are very, very used to familiarity. And so I hope the legacy of our show pushes Broadway audiences to open up their minds to stay curious and interested about stories and cultures that are not of their own.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com