Musical Princess – Q&A with Paulina Yeung

Can you share your earliest influences in music and singing?

I always tell people that The Phantom of the Opera was my first foray into music as that was the album that my mom listened to when she was pregnant with me. But it was my grandmother who encouraged and inspired me to sing. I remember she would sing lullabies to me when I was little and she started teaching me Chinese songs later on. Growing up, I also loved listening to classical crossover singers like Sarah Brightman, Andrea Boccelli and Josh Groban and their music and voices inspired me a lot.

How did you get your break in performing in musicals?

I was in New York at the time and heard that The King and I was having an open call for the US National Tour so I went to audition. I sang a 16 bar cut of a song from Carousel. After a few rounds of callbacks, I found out that I got cast as Princess Tuptim. The King and I was one of my dream shows and it was such a joy to be able to be a part of that production and to work with an amazing creative team and wonderful cast members.

Please describe a typical day at work on stage or during performance season.

If it’s a regular show day, we have the morning and afternoon free and I use that time to run errands and do a little bit of sightseeing. We usually have to be at the theatre 2 to 3 hours before showtime. That gives enough time for the entire company to do a physical and vocal warm-up and go over any scenes that need to be polished. If there’s a fight scene (The King and I has this), then we have to do a fight call and the people involved in the scene run the sequence to make sure everything is in good shape before the show begins. We take care of doing our own makeup and pre-set our hair before going to get wigs on and last is getting into costumes. The company manager calls for places at the top of the show and we head backstage and the magic begins.

If it’s a two-show day, then we are called to be at the theatre earlier, usually around noon time. Once we finish the first show, we have a break in between before the next one. We use that time to get dinner and I like to squeeze in a power nap in there too.

Can you describe some of the biggest challenges and successes of your career?

I think one of the biggest challenges for me was getting used to auditioning. It can be tough and heart breaking getting more “no’s” versus a “yes” especially if it’s a dream role or show. I learned how to make the most out of auditions by treating them as a learning process and to not take rejection personally and let it affect my sense of self-worth.

As for wins, I am thankful to have been able to make a transition from international relations to a career in music. Honestly, it wouldn’t have happened without the support and encouragement from my family. I’ve ticked a few so far

on my bucket list: being able to travel and see the world while performing, being part of a cast album, and being part of the soundtrack for a TV show and/ or movie. As for the rest of the things on that list, I’ll leave it to the universe to make it happen.

You’ve worked across the globe and toured in many theatres. Which have been your favourite venues and performances through the years?

Oh, it’s so hard to pick! Each city I’ve performed at holds a special place in my heart. I’m a huge fan of sunny weather so Florida was definitely one of my favourite states on tour in the USA. Fort Lauderdale was paradise because our hotel was right next to the beach and the theatre (Broward Center) was really beautiful. I also loved Edinburgh, Scotland. Such a historic place and it was extra memorable because my family flew there to watch the show. But by far, my favourite performance to date was in Lima, Ohio where the theatre had a bat named George who lived there. It only comes out once or twice a year and of course, it made a special appearance and swooped down to the stage and flew around us when Mrs Anna was singing Getting To Know You. It was such a hilarious moment for us and for the audience. 

How did the pandemic affect you and your production teams? How have things progressed since the vaccination programmes and release of lockdown?

As we all know, the pandemic put everything to a halt. The UK tour of The King and I was cancelled back in March. We were slated to have an international tour too but that has been put aside for now. I’m not sure if and when it will be mounted. Theatres have reopened here in NYC and TV/ film productions have resumed as well. We do have to get tested regularly before we can get clearance to work on these productions. Overall, it’s much better but I think it’s going to be a while before things go back to normal in other parts of the world.

Can you tell us more about your voice coaching? In your experience, who would benefit the most?

Sure! I have been coaching for a few years but could only take a limited number of clients because of my touring schedule. During the pandemic, I had more time to expand my voice studio and I now offer coaching to kids and adults of all ages and levels from around the world. It’s really amazing that there’s a technology that allows us to learn and connect despite the distance!

I find it very fulfilling to teach and it really makes my day when I see my students improve and I’m able to help them reach and achieve their goals. I tell people I meet all the time that singing is something that everyone can benefit from. It is proven to release the good and happy hormones (endorphins and oxytocin) and there’s been a ton of research on how it makes people healthier, younger and living longer. As long as you have a passion for music and are open to learning and exploring, you are welcome to my studio.

Can you share any news with us on forthcoming projects?

Over the summer, I was in the Philippines filming a new musical called I Will that’s dedicated to doctors, healthcare workers and frontliners. Right now, I’m in New York City and recently finished recording a cast album for a new musical called Cambodia Agonistes written by Ernest Abuba and composed by Louis Stewart. I also finished recording a few songs for a streaming-based series but can’t disclose what the details are since the new season will be released soon. Stay tuned for updates about this on my social channels: YouTube, Facebook and Instagram (@PaulinaYeung)

Can you share any gems of wisdom for any artists wishing to pursue a career in stage musicals?

First and foremost of course would be to get the necessary training (vocal, acting and dance). It’s important to know and stay true to your essence and to keep working on your craft. Remember that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Each person’s journey is different so trust the process and always lead with faith rather than fear.

Finally – please share some of your favourite music tracks, musicals, TV shows and movie titles.

Musicals: The Phantom of The Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked, Hamilton

TV Shows: Stranger Things, You, Shadow and Bone, The Crown

Movies: Soul, 3 Idiots, Pan’s Labyrinth

View more about Paulina on her website here.

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