Rumi Oyama interview
By Gary Murray
Rumi Oyama is making a name for herself in the international theater community. Some of her credits include The Lion King (Tokyo and Nagoya /Shiki Theatre). Bruce Lee: Journey to the West (Elephant Eye Production) and Miss Saigon (Sacramento Music Circus and Gateway Playhouse).
In the newest production of The King and I at the Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park, the Japanese actress is taking on two roles. She is playing Angel George and is the dance captain. When asked, she said one was more of a challenge, Rumi said, “Being the dance captain is way harder.”
Even though the actress is from Japan, she makes her home in the New York area. According to Rumi, she is not alone from being from The Big Apple on a Texas stage. She said, “The talent is mostly from New York but some of us are from California. The auditions were from California but I think 80% or 90% are from New York. The kids are all from Dallas.”
The King and I is a giant musical experience. “This musical is very big because we have kids” said Rumi, “it is very challenging but it is very wonderful when everybody is together on the same page. This cast is so amazing and hard working. So it is not that difficult. Everybody is willing to get better and improve. They are amazing people.”
She loves opera and opera music and enjoys the international experience of her roles. “In Japan,” she said, “we have a big theater company and the Asians play all the parts.”
She makes her home in the US but admits she does miss something from her native country. “I miss Japanese food,” she said with a laugh. “I can eat Japanese food here but I miss authentic Japanese food. I like Japan to visit but it’s hard to live there.”
She had worked with different members of the production before, “I was honored to be asked again,” she said.
Many people state that The King and I is there favorite musical. I asked Rumi her thoughts on why that is. “Of course, there is great music with “Shall We Dance” but everybody feels a connection with the characters—The King and Anna. I feel that there is the importance of humans being connected as human beings,” she said of the story.
This version of The King and I is not on a nation tour, but is being produced regionally. The New York version is being presented at Lincoln Center. With such a short run, there are no understudies for this version… “We all have to stay healthy,” Rumi said with a laugh.
As part of The King and I, Rumi Oyama and Stephanie Lo, who is portraying Eliza in the show, will be co-teaching a dance workshop on April 4th at the Rehearsal Hall. The event concludes with a question and answer session. No experience is required to join in on the workshop and it is offered from ages 10 and up.
Rumi enjoys the teaching experience. In 25 years, she sees herself teaching on some level. “I want to teach until I die,” she said. “I really love to see people grow. I want to help them, the young kids. I don’t teach professionals but I teach regular people for karaoke or singing for fun. I just love that.”
She also wants to keep her dancing work. “I hope I can do more choreography work,” she said. “I started doing choreography work by accident. I got an offer to choreograph a musical off Broadway. That is giving me lots of opportunities. In 25 years, I want to keep dancing.” With such a positive attitude, Rumi Oyama should be singing and dancing for a long time.