As an actress, Mugi Kadowaki has been asked to step outside of her comfort zone more than once. Maybe that is how she has found herself currently starring in her first-ever musical.
The 24-year-old Tokyo-native plays Satoru, the lead male character in Philippe Decoufle’s musical adaptation of Kazuo Umezu’s popular manga “Watashi wa Shingo” (“My Name is Shingo”). Despite having little confidence in her singing ability, it’s a role she appears to be relishing.
“I don’t have a good voice, but that wasn’t going to stop me from taking this (part),” Kadowaki says. “Everyone else sounds amazing and really professional, so I think it’s fun to have one person who’s a bit rough around the edges (laughs). I’ve always wanted to do a musical and I wasn’t go to let this opportunity pass even if singing isn’t my forte.”
Kadowaki is doing herself a bit of a disservice. Having listened to some of the rehearsal it’s clear she can sing. She looks and sounds confident, like someone who has been performing in musicals for years.
Her character, Satoru, is an unusual young boy who falls for another elementary school student named Marin. Before the pair are torn apart by adults they create a robot named Shingo who becomes self-conscious and eventually tries to reunite them.
The complex tale covers issues ranging from eternal love to metaphysics, as well as delving into the world of artificial intelligence.
“I think when Umezu initially wrote the story more than 30 years ago, his intention was simply to create a sci-fi fairy tale, but having read the comic recently I feel it comes across as an interesting commentary on modern-day society,” Kadowaki says. “It’s actually scary how real it seems, particularly the influence computers have on our lives. At the same time, there’s a real innocence and purity to Satoru and Marin that will hopefully remind adult audiences of their youth.”
Marin is played by Mitsuki Takahata who, like Kadowaki, is regarded as one of the brightest young actresses in Japan. It’s the first time the two women have worked together and they quickly built a strong rapport.
Takahata began her career in musicals, whereas Kadowaki started out in classical ballet. She quit at 14 believing she “wasn’t good enough to dance internationally.”
After finishing high school, she turned to acting. Her breakthrough role came in Daisuke Miura’s 2014 comedy “Ai no Uzu” (“Love’s Whirlpool”) in which she appeared nude for the first time.
“We had some orgy scenes that I was nervous about, but the fact that everyone was in the same boat made things easier. We became like a family,” she says.
The actress has been working a lot since and isn’t planning on slowing down.
“My goal for 2017 is to be involved in even more projects than last year,” she says. “I’m so fortunate to be doing something I love.”
“Watashi wa Shingo” runs Jan. 8-26 at the New National Theatre, Tokyo. Tickets cost ¥10,800 with discounts for students. For more information, visit www.watashingo.com.