Helen Park

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Helen Park

New Writers at 54!
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, January 29, 2020
Reviewed by Chris Struck

Helen Park

There’s a certain buzz and excitement around Helen Park. It’s not hard to describe why, but it’s certainly amazing how many lives and how many people she’s touched so quickly. She’s unapologetically bilingual, and her music (as well as her new musical) captures a song culture that has made waves worldwide even with people who can’t speak her language: K-Pop. Does anybody remember Gangnam Style? What makes it so catchy and so immediately memorable is the intensity and fun of the fast-moving music. Anyone who dove further into the K-Pop musical craze and watched the likes of 2NE1 or BTS, will realize that the insanely high-budget techno-thriller music videos that blend Korean and English lyrics with action and glamor are the norm. No exception.

So what does Helen Park do?  She infuses this electric-shock style into the story of the fictional boy band, FATE, who took off-Broadway by storm and is now getting moved up to league 1 in KPOP. The concept has all of the elements that make a good Broadway show, but it starts with the music. Personally, I believe the strength in Helen Park’s music is not just about her ability to bridge cultures within the song but in the way she creates something that sounds purely Korean but is geared toward a Broadway audience. One might ask, can a show with more lyrics in Korean than English appeal to a mass audience, but it seems it already has. The two songs that were clearly from the show were “America” and “Come to My Bed.” “Come to My Bed” was a touch more complete sounding, and I especially liked the melody on the line, “I’ve been waiting for the night I hold you.” The quintet of guys—Jiho Kang, Joomin Hwang, Jason Tam, Toren Nakamura, and John Yi—were fabulous together, and you gotta love a line like “Champagne flows like fountains in America.”

There were other good songs too as Park showcased a sample of her work. Some of my favorites included “Shi Gan Nang Bee,” “Wind Up Doll,” “Still I Love You,” and “Bung Uh Ree Sae.” It’s impossible to pass up the strong performance of Janet Krupin on “Wind Up Doll,” a song that would fit squarely in the camp of a Girls’ Generation playlist. However, its upbeat style and clever sensuality was different in tone than these other key songs in which Park gave some insight into the person inside. With “Shi Gan Nang Bee,” she crafted a ballad-esque lament telling a playboy to “Stop sweet talking me,” and in “Still I love You,” she sat down at the piano for the first time to sing a chilling ode to music. Finally, another Park, Ashley Park, joined the stage to sing “Bung Uh Ree Sae,” and although there were many good singers present, she was easily my favorite. Even with the seemingly simple lyrics, “Never knew it would be so hard/ Never knew I would be broken apart” I felt chills with the way she dived into the sound. Beautifully done.

Also performing as vocalists were Julia Abueva, Remy Zaken, Nick Cartell, and Jonathan Shew. Sujin Kim-Ramsey directed the music and played piano, joined by Hwanho Oh on drums, Haedong Yoon on guitar, and Sang Ouk Jung on bass. Stay tuned for more news on KPOP as it makes its way toward Broadway!

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see StruckChris.com