‘The Karate Kid’ is making its pre-Broadway début in St. Louis

The year is 1984. Ronald Reagan was President, Michael Jackson was King and the movies were on fire. premiered this year alone Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, Footloose, Romancing the Stone, and a little action strip called The Karate Kid, Robert Mark Kamen’s semi-autobiographical film about a teenager who learns martial arts from an unexpected friend in order to defeat a high school bully. “Wake up, wax down” went into the lexicon, Ralph Macchio’s star rose, and kids everywhere rushed to enroll in martial arts classes in hopes of perfecting their crane kick. The film would inspire four more, plus a TV show and the Netflix series Cobra Kai. But in 1984, Japanese exchange student Kumiko Yoshii saw the film at a movie theater in Bozeman, Montana, with her host sister. “The character of Miyagi-san really appealed to me,” recalls Yoshii. “I never thought I’d be working with the person who wrote the film series.”

But she is. In early 2020, Yoshii, a producer and co-owner of New York-based Gorgeous Entertainment, was in the middle of a reading of The Karate Kid: The Musical (Book von Kamen) when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Work on the musical paused for a few months but resumed via Zoom with director Amon Miyamoto in Tokyo, Kamen in Sonoma, choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid in San Diego, and Yoshii in New York City. The musical was ready for its rehearsal, but there was a problem: Due to delays caused by COVID, New York venues had to postpone their premieres to 2023. But then Yoshii met Jack Lane, the executive producer of STAGES St. Louis, who suggested that The Karate Kid: The Musical Catch its world premiere at STAGES’ new home, the Ross Family Theater at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, before heading to Broadway. Now Lane hopes to turn St. Louis into a tryout town.

“Broadway shows always fly over St. Louis,” Lane says. “Yes, we have the Fox for the road companies, but [companies] go to Chicago or Boston or LA to try out shows. I’m talking about a show that comes and sits here, like in a residency, and a lot is created here – it doesn’t just come in for a week or two. That’s what happened to me karate kid

This has long been a goal of STAGES, but until the KPAC was built, the company didn’t have the infrastructure to do it. KPAC has a footprint similar to a Broadway theater, an intimate 400-seat house — smaller than the Fox — but a large backstage area with a 60-foot flyhouse for raising and lowering the scenery. On a recent visit to the theater, about a month and a half after the premiere, crews hoist gigantic speakers 30 feet into the air. On the floor, a man grabs two long strips of white paper, waves them, and performs a jump kick. The atmosphere is relaxed, but the pressure is high. They’re about halfway through the loading process, and five more articulated lorries with equipment are due to arrive in the coming weeks.

“This is the first time we’ve put the Ferrari on the test track,” says KPAC Technical Coordinator Noah Parsons. “STAGES showed it. Broadway is really putting it to a professional test.” And that’s just a medium-sized production. Phantom of the opera? Seventeen tractor-trailers’ worth of equipment, which Parsons says KPAC could likely pull through with some careful planning. Brett Murray, STAGES marketing manager, says the musical theater group is already generating interest in larger productions.

STAGES hopes that becoming a test city could give a boost to the local economy. That karate kid The cast, crew and orchestra are a mix of locals and New Yorkers. About 200 outsiders involved in the production will be coming to Kirkwood in the months leading up to the premiere and throughout the run, and they will need room and board. (Already, Parsons says, New York City fans are at Strange Donuts, a six-minute walk from KPAC.) STAGES hopes so, too karate kid could be the start of attracting more viewers from out of town. Murray says people in 20 different states — including Nevada, Texas and California — who have never bought tickets from STAGES before karate kid It also helps the other shows in the season from STAGES as some have bought tickets to see them in the heights and A chorus line.

STAGES is keeping a low profile karate kid Details, but fans of the film will spot references in the stage production – this isn’t a complete departure – although it incorporates more Japanese culture. All of Broadway rising star Drew Gasparini’s music is original. Derek McLane, who designs sets for the Oscars and won a Tony for his work Moulin Rouge!: The Musical, acts as a set designer. Bradley King, who won a Tony for lighting design Hadestown, also gives his touch. John Cardoza (Jagged little pill) will play Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso, and Canadian actor Jovanni Sy will play Mr. Miyagi.

And in attendance will be Kamen, who is excited to see the film, based in part on his life, in a new guise and in St. Louis. “The East Coast and the West Coast, these guys get everything,” he says. “Can bring [the musical] and to see people come out with enthusiasm as opposed to cynicism, that was really exciting for me.”

The Karate Kid: The Musical runs from May 25th to June 26th.


The stage is set

Two more productions round off the season at STAGES. Here’s a snapshot of each.

In the Heights | July 22–July 21 August

If you caught it Hamilton at Fox, why not top off your summer with Lin-Manuel Miranda in the heights at LEVELS? Set in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, the musical revolves around bodega owner Usnavi, his love Vanessa, neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia, and another couple, Benny and Nina, and theirs suenitos, or little dreams. But when the summer heat causes a power outage, tragedy strikes.

A chorus line | 9 Sep – 9 Aug October

It’s the show about an audition for a show. When a director limits a group of professional dancers to 17 on a tryout, he gives them an unusual prompt: As part of the audition process, he wants them to tell him about their past—highlights, heartbreak, all that. You probably know the Pulitzer Prize winner for the songs “I Hope I Get It”, “One” and “What I Did For Love”. Or maybe his staying power – it was one of the longest-running shows on Broadway.

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