BWW Interview: Actress Jodi Kimura Talks About Her Favorite Role Bloody Mary in SOUTH PACIFIC
South Pacific plays The Soraya (formerly VPAC) at CSUN this weekend April 13-15 and then moves to La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts April 20. We sat down with multi-talented actress Jodi Kimura who is essaying the role of Bloody Mary in the production. As you will see, Kimura is really into this role
What is it about Bloody Mary that everyone loves? She is so brash, you listen... but end up really caring about her.
Well, I can't really speak for why other people love Bloody Mary, but I love herbecause she's a survivor and because she's a strong, powerful woman in a man'sworld making her OWN way with no apologies. I love her because she's a single mother, an immigrant rising well above her lot in life and running her own successful business. And I love her because of her sense of humor, her curiosity, her intelligence, and her wit. But mostly, I love her because, despite her difficult circumstances, she has SO much hope and fights for it with everything she has.
Is there anyone in your life that you are patterning your interpretation of the
Absolutely! I am fourth generation Japanese Hawaiian and much like Bloody Mary who came from Tonkin, China (modern day Vietnam) to work on the French Plantations, my ancestors came from Japan to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations in Hawaii. Like Bloody Mary, they learned "pidgin" English and like Bloody Mary, they did everything they could to provide a better life for their kids. My Mary is very much inspired by my grandmother and aunties: how they spoke, how they'd kill two-inch cockroaches with their bare feet and how they'd do anything for me.
There is a moment in the show when Mary thinks Cable is proposing to Liat, and she is overcome with pride, joy and relief that she has "won" and her daughter will have a good life. And I think of my grandma every time. She always wanted to be a singer and I know she would have been so proud to see me living out her dream. Sadly, she died when I was in college, before I even stepped foot onto a stage. So the fact that I get to bring her to life every time I do this role means a lot.
Does she have a message that applies to the overall theme of the show?
If so, what is that?
The show is about love overcoming racism and Bloody Mary is a big part of the Cable/Liat storyline, which directly illustrates that struggle. But Bloody Mary herself helps to illustrate the theme in a really powerful way, too. This show is so brilliantly crafted in the way it does this: we meet each character at the top of the show and we think we know who they are. Initially, Bloody Mary seems opportunistic, manipulative, and self-serving. And you either want to judge her for it or simply laugh at her and dismiss her. You see her as the Seabees do, as an amusement and maybe a slightly dangerous curiosity. But as the play unfolds, you see past her exterior to what really makes her human: her love for Liat and her hopes for a better life for her daughter.
Have you watched the movie or ever seen the role played onstage?
Or do you prefer not to?
I am a HUGE fan of watching any good version I can of ANY show I am doing. I find the work of other actors and directors very educational and super inspiring (assuming, of course, I've done my own work first so as not to be negatively influenced by it.) For this role, I watched the movie with Juanita Hall, the made-for-TV-movie with Lori Tan Chinn AND the 2008 revival with Loretta Ables Sayre at Lincoln Center. Interesting side note: I saw the 2008 revival at Lincoln Center because I had sung at a concert with Kelli O'Hara in Montana (I was based in Colorado at the time) and she insisted I come to New York to see her in the show and to sing for the creatives at Lincoln Center. So I went to see the show and she set up an audition for me with the ENTIRE team the next day. And that's how I ended up on the 1st national tour. So yes, watching the show beforehand was extremely helpful, in more ways than one!
What is your favorite role in musical theatre? One that you've done thus far?
Bloody Mary, HANDS DOWN! In the last ten years, this is my seventh production of South Pacific: the 1st National Tour, US, the 1st National Tour, UK (both Lincoln Center productions) and at five regional theatres. I have performed the role now over 825 times and she NEVER EVER gets old. There aren't many roles in music theatre written specifically for an Asian woman and certainly not one as juicy and as wonderful as this, with this kind of range or dimension and I still find her challenging, exciting to play and inspiring. She is comedic, dramatic, and richly complicated, she has a beautiful ballad, a poignant up-tempo AND she gets to go barefoot and essentially wear pajamas for the whole show. What can be better than that? Asian roles or non-Asian roles, they don't get any better than Bloody Mary.
Do you have a favorite composer? If so, who is it? Why this choice?
That's hard because there are so many amazing composers that I love. But, I guess if I had to pick one, it would be Richard Rogers. I'm not just saying that because of this particular interview, but because the VERY first musical I saw was The Sound
of Music at a local high school on Maui when I was in the fourth grade. I was OBSESSED. I made my aunt and cousin take me EVERY night for the rest of the run and I played the record over and over again until I memorized every song. There is something particularly magical about his melodies. I mean, those three iconic notes of the Bali Hai theme? It takes a special kind of talent to encapsulate all that magic, mystique and beauty of a place like Bali Hai and distill it down to three notes. And when you hear those three notes, you are immediately transported to that magical place in an almost visceral way. Genius.
Talk about your director and fellow cast members.
I was so excited to finally get a chance to work with our director, THE Glenn Casale. Working with someone like him, with his kind of body of work, Tony nominations, Emmy awards, etc., can be intimidating. But I was delighted to find that Glenn is as kind, down-to-earth and fun as he is talented and working with him has been an absolute dream! He's known for his innovative, out-of-the-box and sometimes controversial (refreshingly so, in my opinion) work and ideas. But in a classic piece like this, I have also found him to be very studied and extremely respectful of the great storytelling. While always keeping an eye on the big picture, he is constantly focusing us in on the details and intimate truths of every moment, which I LOVE! In addition to Glenn, I also get to work with the incredibly talented Peggy Hickey (choreographer), who likewise, despite an intimidatingly impressive resume of her own, is a joy to work with. And along with the amazing Brent Crayon (music director), John Calder (stage manager, who I literally would be lost without) and this wonderful cast, I cannot wait to see what we will all create together. I can already tell it will be a beautiful show. I'm also excited to be working with everyone at McCoy Rigby Entertainment for the first time. I've seen a couple of their shows and have been very impressed with their quality of work.
What's up next for you?
A week after we close South Pacific, I'll be going back east to play Rosie inMamma Mia at Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in Auburn, NY directed byBrett Smock. Brett just directed me in Tim Rice's new musical From Here to Eternity at the Ogunquit Playhouse (with Sir Tim himself, which was a huge thrill.)Mamma Mia is obviously a very different kind of show and Rosie is a new role for me so I'm super excited!
One of the most popular and beloved shows from the Golden Age of the American Musical Theatre, South Pacific, with book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, will have four performances at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya) at CSUN in Northridge April 13 to 15, followed by an engagement from April 20 to May 13 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Tickets for The Soraya: call (818) 677-3000/
Visit online at ValleyPerformingArtsCenter.org