On Tuesday evening, the 112th performance of the third run of the musical “Les Miserables” took place at Blue Square in Seoul.
During the intermission, a couple in seats in the 10th row discussed whether Eponine was biracial, while two other women in the same row, seemingly in their 50s, praised her singing.
Eponine is a character from Victor Hugo's 1862 novel "Les Miserables." Despite being the daughter of the unscrupulous Thenardiers, she assists her friend Marius, who is also her love interest, in finding his beloved Cosette, the adopted daughter of Jean Valjean.
Eponine’s character is best represented by the soliloquy “On My Own,” where she expresses her unrequited love for Marius and her feelings of loneliness and heartbreak.
The subject of the audience members' conversations was Lumina Nakamura, a Japanese performer who goes by the mononym Lumina. She began her musical career -- a dream she had since she saw her first musical at 5 -- as Eponine.
“I just feel so happy to take the stage with Korean musical actors that I’ve admired. I watched most of their performances. It’s a dream come true,” Lumina, 23, told The Korea Herald in an interview Tuesday, speaking in flawless Korean before taking the stage for her 56th performance as Eponine.
Why South Korea?
After watching the musical “Sherlock Holmes” in Japan and learning that it was from South Korea, her love for Korean musicals was ignited. She began learning the Korean language.
Her mother, who had exposed her to the genre, accompanied her when Lumina made a “musical tour” of Seoul while in middle school.
In 2019, she moved to Korea to attend Seoul National University, where she studied classical voice, and graduated in August 2023. She admitted that the reason she majored in classical voice was to build a strong foundation as a musical actor.
Lumina is used to people’s assumptions at sight that she’s a foreigner. Her father is Indian and her mother is Japanese. Born and raised in Japan, she grew up attending Japanese schools. Japanese is her mother tongue, yet people would often praise her for her fluency in Japanese, assuming she is a foreigner.
However, she thinks that can be to her advantage, and she wants to look beyond the Korean musical industry.
“I never really thought about leaving Korean musicals. I just want to continue here, trying different roles and different singing styles. I just started and am still learning. There are so many challenges I want to tackle," she said. "For example, I also want to perform in places like Broadway or theaters and other various media like TV and film."
After a run at Busan's Dream Theatre from Oct. 15 to Nov. 19 last year, the production opened in Seoul on Nov. 30, where it is to run through March 10, before moving on to Daegu's Keimyung Arts Center on March 21 for a two-week run.
Lumina alternates in the role of Eponine with rising star Kim Soo-ha.