Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance
Year of graduation: 2015
Found in Translation: How Kimberly-ann Truong is bringing her Vietnamese heritage to her newest role on Broadway
Musical theatre graduate Kimberly-ann Truong knew from the age of eight that she loved to sing, although her dreams veered more into pop star territory than towards The Great White Way. Growing up in Prince Rupert, BC, Truong started studying voice in high school, and then spent a summer in Toronto with The Etobicoke School of Arts at the Lower Ossington Theatre learning about musical theatre and expanding her dance background to become a professional triple threat.
“I was convinced I was going to be discovered as a pop star — I had actually been on the television show The Next Star, and had entered all these singing competitions — but when I was 15 or 16, I thought, ‘Ok, I’m not going to be discovered as a pop star, so I’m going to go be a lawyer’,” she laughs. “It was awesome that at Sheridan, I could get my degree while also doing practical work in my field. It was the best thing that could have happened in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without Sheridan, especially mentors Gillian Saunders-Herron, Marc Richard, Marie Baron and Reid Spencer.”
After being signed by the Talent House acting agency, Truong took to the stage in classic musicals such as Les Miserables, West Side Story, A Little Night Music and A Chorus Line. Now, she’s part of the Broadway ensemble and understudy for Gigi, one of the tragic Dreamland girls in Miss Saigon.
“It’s been really wonderful for me to have a connection to the show,” says Truong, who relishes the opportunity to share her Vietnamese background with audiences at the musical, which begins during the Vietnam War’s last days in 1975. Truong’s parents — who were refugees in the late 1970s before meeting and settling in Prince Rupert, as well as sponsoring their multitude of siblings to come to Canada — supported her decision to be a part of the production. “When I was auditioning, they helped me a lot with the language,” says Truong.
Along with her fellow Vietnamese cast member, Christopher Vo, Truong is thrilled with the translating and updating of songs from the libretto, such as the Wedding Ceremony, into accurate Vietnamese. “We all really wanted the show to be as new and as authentic as possible,” she says. She and Vo also helped with ad libs in Vietnamese for the whole cast to be able to use in the background of scenes to keep them in character.
The show resonated especially with Truong’s father. “The musical felt very real for him. He said that it felt like he was there again — the costumes, the intensity, the sets — he couldn’t get over it,” she says.
Part of that visceral reaction — an emotion that Truong hopes audiences experience, rather than just the spectacle — is the result of a team that wanted to show the deeper message of the musical. “The week before the show opened, we had a day or two where we just did research as a cast with our creative team. That had a huge impact on the show. I think about those two days all the time and how deep we had to dig to really understand what happened there,” she says. “A lot of the time, you don’t get that level of care, and that was really important to the show, and important to me. This is a literal dream come true.”