As part of the original West End cast of FROZEN the Musical, Kanon Narumi made her West End debut at Theatre Royal Drury Lane playing Young Anna (Stephanie McKeon), and she has recently taken over the role of Young Elsa (Samantha Barks). Previously, Kanon toured the UK and internationally with The King and I, and she was understudy Cindy-Lou Who for NBC’s The Grinch Musical LIVE. Kanon has screen experience including for the Super Mario LEGO app and Audition Ready, and she will be playing Maya Rogers in the upcoming Apple TV+ feature film Tetris alongside Taron Egerton. Recently chatting to Kanon, she talks about playing Young Anna and Young Elsa in FROZEN the Musical for her West End debut, touring with The King and I and working on the upcoming feature film Tetris.
How are you finding the experience of making your West End debut at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in FROZEN the Musical?
I feel very honoured to be in the original cast of FROZEN the Musical in the West End, as ever since I have started this career, it has been my dream to work in places like the world’s most prestigious showbiz venues.
What was Young Anna like to play and was there anything that drew you to the role?
Young Anna was a fun and easy-going character to play, and I think I am naturally like her! I liked her being the ‘naughty and cheeky’ younger sister.
You have recently taken over the role of Young Elsa, how different are you finding playing her?
Young Elsa is a very mature, complex, and, most importantly, a magical child compared to Anna. Hence, playing her is a significant and challenging but fun change to the character’s personality.
What did you enjoy most about playing Young Anna and what is your favourite aspect of now playing Young Elsa?
I liked the brightness and the cheerfulness of Young Anna. Still, now being an Elsa, I like how Elsa has many ‘secrets’ about her magic and, probably like everyone in the world, I want her caring and regal personality when she is Princess Elsa before growing into an elegant, graceful queen. The latter is strong and fierce when letting herself go!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from being in the original West End cast so far and what are you looking forward to most for continuing your time in the musical?
My highlight in this production is when the cast (including the children) were introduced to each other and the director, producer, backstage crew etc. As the original cast, we got to be involved in choreographing some movements in, for example, clapping games and playing scenes in the show, which was, I think for me, a constructive way to memorise the show and memorable too. As Young Elsa, I am looking forward to having a go at playing the more older and mature sister out of the two children and changing from the bright lady to the shady lady. I have constantly been working on making some parts of my acting similar to Stephanie McKeon, who plays Adult Anna. Now that I am Elsa, I am working on acting similar to Samantha Barks as Young Elsa grows up in the story since she plays Adult Elsa in the musical.
You performed in the UK and International Tour of The King and I, what are some of your favourite memories from being part of the show?
Because the show was on tour, we got to stay in hotels with two children in every room, and being a Siamese Royal Child, wearing the unusual hairstyle with the crowns (that was like a hoop around our high buns) was a very memorable hairstyle. Other notable things were the museum trips, art trips, and trips to the aquarium, which were friendly ways for memory-making with the chaperones and children.
What was it like touring for the first time and do you remember how you felt when booking the role?
When I was first confirming and booking for the role, thinking that I would be away from home, I felt like it would be an exciting challenge staying away from home and being a little more independent. Still, when I started, it was not as hard missing home as I expected, and I think it was fun to the point where I forgot about all of the temptations of going back home.
Having been part of NBC’s The Grinch Musical LIVE, can you tell us about it?
The Grinch is one of my favourite Christmas films, and it was a great experience to be a part of the filmed version of the musical, The Grinch, although I was an understudy Cindy-Lou. The rehearsals were long, and we had to miss school, but we got a tutor who was also our chaperone on some of our time off the rehearsal sessions.
What are you able to say about your time filming as Maya Rogers in the upcoming feature film Tetris and what was it like on set?
Tetris was my first feature film, and I realised that filming was very different from theatre work. In a musical, we would have a three-month rehearsal, whereas in a movie, we practice at home, then on the day we do a mini-rehearsal called ‘blocking’, then we go into filming. However, on the day, the crew and director were very understanding. The set was impressive and was as if it was a complete home. In a film, the good thing is that if you mess up, you can have another go, whereas, in a musical, it is a one chance thing.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast, which includes Taron Egerton?
Amazingly, in the film, I got to work with Britain’s famous star Taron Egerton but, alongside that, I got to work with Ayane Nagabuchi, a well-known actress in Japan. Coincidentally, my younger sister got offered the role of Julie Rogers in the film, and Julie is the younger sister of Maya Rogers.
We understand you’ve worked on a number of commercials, can you tell us about some of the ones you’ve been involved with?
Some commercials I have worked on are the bed company Dreams commercial which, again, my sister and I worked in together where we had to try and ‘wake up a log’. I have done a commercial for the Super Mario LEGO app, and that was like getting paid to play with LEGO. I have also done a commercial for another app called Audition Ready, where I interviewed directors, producers and even some casting directors, e.g. I had a casting director called Debbie O’Brien in The King and I Tour whom I thought I would never be working with again (like usual). Still, I was lucky enough to interview her and get to know about new productions that she is working on.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
My primary school, called The Orion Primary school, offered me a chance to audition for the agency that I am in (iD Talent). Once I got in, when I got The King and I, I started to understand more about this industry and thought that I would like to do acting probably for my future career.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
At the same time as acting, I am OBSESSED with animals so I watch a TV programme called The Pets Factor where you can watch vets treat ill animals and watch the whole process of operating and taking the animals back to their owners. Ever since the film was released, Frozen 1 has been my number one favourite film choice, and I have always been in awe of the two sisters, so it is a dream come true to play both sisters in the show.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Apart from taking care of two of my pet guinea pigs and playing my piano and violin, and of course, singing along to Frozen songs, I like being part of the Royal Ballet training whenever time permits. The Junior Associate programme where I currently train and my ballet school offer terrific opportunities to brush up my ballet skills with significant variation, even musical theatre workshops!