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Ars Nova’s ‘KPOP’ crackles with Korean music-making reality

"KPOP" gives the audience an immersive look behind the scenes of a Korean music factory. Photo Credit: Ben Arons

WHAT “KPOP”

WHEN | WHERE Through Oct. 7, A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 W. 53rd St.

INFO $45-$75; 212-352-3101, arsnovanyc.com

BOTTOM LINE An intriguing look at a Korean music factory.

Since the 2012 video “Gangnam Style” had everyone from Barack Obama on down trying to emulate those wacky dance moves, Korean pop music has been a thing.

Now we get an intriguing glimpse of how it’s created, with Ars Nova’s “KPOP,” an immersive musical by Jason Kim that takes us behind the scenes of one fictional label’s music factory. The audience follows members of the cast through a maze of dance and recording studios, practice rooms, even the on-site plastic surgeon’s office as these kids with potential are molded into top-tier talent.

Along the way, hot-button issues are confronted. How severely should an accent be moderated, facial features be altered? More potent are concerns of nationality, as one young man talks with obvious sorrow about how his country became divided.

Speaking before the high-octane concert that ends the evening, the head of the label confesses that the company was misguided in its attempt to Americanize the Korean sound. “We don’t need to cross over to you. You need to cross over to us,” he says, focusing on the importance of understanding each other’s cultures. In these times, those words resonate well beyond the stage.

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