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The Karate Kid – The Musical: A Conversation with Producer Kumiko Yoshii

STAGES St. Louis Presents the Pre-Broadway Engagement of The Karate Kid – The Musical

Kumiko, what drew you to this production?

Our director, Amon Miyamoto, came to me with the idea to create a musical based on The Karate Kid. I knew this would work because of the very touching relationship between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, and the overarching theme about life and balance.

How did you secure the movie rights?

The Karate Kid is a huge title in Hollywood, so I knew it would be difficult to clear the rights. I learned that both Sony Pictures and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen owned the rights. I decided to approach Robert first. I didn’t know him, so I Googled him and became nervous at the thought of meeting him. There are many different versions of our first meeting, but this is my version. While we were at dinner, I let Robert choose the wine. At that time, I didn’t know he was a vineyard owner and loves to make wine when he’s not writing screenplays. For him, the fact that I let him choose the wine was important. After that, whatever I said to him during that meeting ended with him saying, “OK. Let’s give this a try.”

Talk about the dream team working behind the scenes.

The Karate Kid is a semi-biographical story of Robert’s early life. He was born and raised in New York and picked up karate as a kid. Because he had a mentor from Okinawa, Japan, Robert spent time there studying karate and the culture. If anyone should write the book for the musical, we thought he should because it is his story. Drew Gasparini is a young, up-and-coming composer/lyricist. He has created a very accessible score that is a mix of pop and rock infused with Okinawan music. Our director, costume designer, lighting designer, sound designer, orchestrator, and music director have all won multiple awards.

What challenges have you had to overcome to get to this point in the production?

We started developing The Karate Kid – The Musical in New York in February of 2020. When COVID shut us down, I had two choices to make; I could pause the development of the show, or I could take advantage of the downtime to keep developing the show so that we’d be ready when the world was ready. We chose to keep going.

What excites you about bringing it to STAGES at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center?

St. Louis is a very theater-friendly area. I’m excited for people in the community to embrace the show in the Ross Family Theater of the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. This audience will be instrumental in helping us shape the show before its premiere on Broadway. 

May 25 – June 26. STAGESStLouis.org

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