“I’m not sure if this translates entirely, but I think there is such a thing as beginner’s resolve,” says Korean pop star Luna. She makes her Broadway debut as MwE, a K-pop star battling with industry executives in the new musical in KPOP. “When we’re beginning something, we always have that first sense of wanting to do our best and really trying to do everything we can to do a good job. And I think for the character of MwE, this beginner’s resolve is such an important part of her character that it really made me look back on my past when I was beginning in K-pop and in musical theatre.”
The Broadway musical, featuring a score by Helen Park and Max Vernon and a book by Jason Kim, offers Luna the unique opportunity to bridge her experiences in both K-pop music and musical theatre.
Coincidentally, before she was an idol for the K-pop group f(x), Luna performed in musicals. “My first memory of a Broadway show was actually Legally Blonde. I played Elle Woods when I was 18,” says Luna.
Her experiences in both art forms gave Luna the chance to develop her perspective on what’s at the core of each craft. “I think the experience of being a K-pop star is very much about showing the audience what you’re good at to the level of perfection. You will practice and practice to show perfect moves and perfect skills," explains Luna. By contrast, with musical theatre, "It’s not just about perfection, not just about the technicalities of musical theatre. I think it’s really about being able to show your vulnerabilities.”
To tap into those vulnerabilities as an actor, Luna reflected on her time starting out in K-pop, and even consulted her old diaries. “I’ve always journaled extensively in the past about when I was beginning as an artist in Korea—my training days, my apprenticeship days," she says. "It was really helpful in fleshing out my character.”
Those reflections guide Luna in portraying MwE, who she describes as “someone who possesses a special voice, but loses her way, yet in the end, reclaims her voice and finds herself.” MwE’s journey is captured best in the show with the song “Bung Uh Ree Sae,” which translates to “Mute Bird.” For Luna, the power ballad captures KPOP’s central theme of “not being able to tell your story or stand in your story or speak your own mind out loud.”
Bridging her pasts has also led Luna to one more conclusion: “I liken it to how we watch sad movies or tragic movies for catharsis. In the opposite way, there’s a strength and energy that we Koreans bring to K-pop.” And Luna hopes to bring the same kind of positive catharsis to KPOP’s audiences, using that K-pop energy—and perhaps a little beginner’s resolve, too.