After leaving Shiki, she has appeared in Bonnie & Clyde, Cyrano, Alice in Wonderland, Love Never Dies and Carmen with her newest role as Felicia in the January 2015 HoriPro production of Memphis.
Megumi Hamada Takes Center Stage in Memphis
Between 1995 and 2010, as a member of Shiki Theatrical Company, Megumi Hamada played heroines in such musicals as Beauty and the Beast, Aida, The Lion King and Wicked. After leaving Shiki, she has appeared in Bonnie & Clyde, Cyrano, Alice in Wonderland, Love Never Dies and Carmen with her newest role as Felicia in the January 2015 HoriPro production of Memphis.
TJ: How did you get into the world of musicals?
HAMADA: I like singing and had wanted to be a singer since I was very young. When I was in junior high, I saw the musical Ri Koran on TV and the Shiki Theatrical Company’s production of Cats. I was deeply impressed by musicals and my mother sup- ported my dream because she also liked performances such as those by Takarazuka. After graduating from high school, I worked part-time for a year to save money. Then after graduating from acting school, I joined a theatrical company for almost two years before joining Shiki Theatrical Company.
TJ: Did your career change after leaving Shiki?
HAMADA: There are no strict rules, but there are definitely unspoken agreements in the organization. Their performances have the same goal so styles in vocals and acting become similar among members. Within the framework of those rules, performers try to express their own identity. But after leaving the organization, the system became totally different. I had been in the organization for 15 years, and adapting to the external world was a little tough because I have to do everything myself. On the other hand, when I belonged to Shiki, I devoted 24 hours a day to acting and singing. Even on holidays I did nothing but lessons. So when people asked me about myself after leaving Shiki, I had nothing to say. It took one or two years to know myself. For example, I dressed in a sweat suit when I went to HoriPro’s office because I didn’t know what to wear. After almost three and a half years, I am starting to live normally. But because I had devoted myself to acting and singing for 15 years, I was able to build the foundation of my performance.
TJ: Do you prefer singing in English or Japanese? Do you feel any language barrier?
HAMADA: It is easier to sing in English. It is very difficult to translate songs exactly into Japanese. Because Japanese is structurally different from English, it is almost impossible to express the original meaning along with the melody. To communicate the original feeling as much as possible, I start to sing in Japanese after singing in English repeatedly. But still I feel frustrated by the difference between English and Japanese. When I was involved with translating lyrics at Shiki, I tried to express the same impres- sion as the original, even if it was not an exact translation. In Memphis, the songs are all in Japanese. So, I first practiced them in English to express the exact feeling of the originals in the final Japanese versions. I am not fluent in English, but I can communicate with foreign directors well. I can usually communicate with them without interpreters.
TJ: What is special about Memphis?
HAMADA: Most of all, the singing and dancing are terrific. We want the audience to feel the power of music by knowing that music changed the world’s view of racial differences.
TJ: What is the most impressive character you have ever played?
HAMADA: It is difficult to say, but I dare say it is Aida (the title role from the musical Aida). It was tough to get into the role of Aida who died for forbidden love.
TJ: Do you prefer singing or dancing?
HAMADA: I prefer singing. Singing and dancing at the same time is totally different from just singing. I have to prepare for it in a completely different way from the beginning.
TJ: What kind of performances do you want to do in the future? Are you interested in non-musical stage plays?
HAMADA: Comedies–since I have done a lot of serious roles, I want to try lighter roles. I also want to do stage plays.
TJ: Would you like to work in Broadway?
HAMADA: I was offered an opportunity to perform in Broadway when I was in my twenties, but I didn’t go for various reasons. I think I am meant to perform in Japan.
TJ: Are there any actors or actresses you particularly like?
HAMADA: I like Meryl Streep. Her performances are very realistic.
TJ: What do you do in your free time?
HAMADA: I work out at the gym to fine tune my body. Also, I like to go to hot springs or places full of nature because I am always in enclosed spaces.
TJ: Do you have any advice for those who want to be a singer or musical performer?
HAMADA: Take action. Time flies. tj
The original article can be found in Issue #276 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.