Proudly joining the lineup of Asian artists to play in the renowned theater musical Les Misérables, Nathania Ong makes history as the first Singaporean actress to bag the role of Eponine.
The 24-year-old has come a long way since her very first performance, then just five years old, she performed in front of the former Singapore president S.R. nathan in 2004. Like usual theater artists, Ong also encountered rejection from drama schools and was faced with uncertainty towards her education because of the pandemic.
Although Ong admitted that the rejections somehow made her give up on her dream at some point, the actress did not let life get in her way of her intrinsic passion and love for performing. She eventually mustered up the courage to apply to another program in the UK.
In a Vogue interview, she revealed that flying there for the final stages of her auditon challenged her financially that she had to work three part-time jobs to pay for her trip. All her efforts and hard work paid off when she secured a place in Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts’ specialist musical theatre program – an in demand spot many people chase for.
“I don’t think I would have been as satisfied with getting to this point if I didn’t struggle like that. It’s been a long journey to get here, and I’m not done yet. I’m going to do more,” Ong said.
Before joining the West End production, Ong played Eponine on the Les Misérables UK and Ireland tour. She then made her West End debut in the sci-fi musical Be More Chill.
For eight shows a week, Ong plays the coveted role of feisty, independent and selfless character of Eponine, belting out the heartbreaking lyrics of On My Own in one of her character’s most iconic scenes.
Ong joins the long list of theater performers from Southeast Asia who became part of various iterations of Les Misérables, including Lea Salonga, Rachelle Ann Go, Devin Ilaw and more.
“I get full liberty to play around every night and to build this character’s journey—to live her life, to love the people she loves and fight for what she fights for”, Ong stated about her role as Eponine.
Ong also said that she would love to see a “bigger industry” of the theatre scene in Singapore as there is so much potential that just needs to be recognized.
When asked about her experience with racial diversity and representation in the international theatre scene, Ong replied with “I’m quite fortunate because Lea Salonga, who was the first Asian person to play Eponine, showed people that a Southeast Asian actor can perform this role. But I think casting directors still like to play it safe. Many shows have specific roles they like to cast people of colour in.”
“But beyond that, I want to see more Asian actors being cast in roles that aren’t Asian-specific”, Ong added.
To know more about the upcoming dates of Les Miserables in West End, visit www.lesmis.com/london.
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Featured photo by Bloomfields Welch