Giving up her decade-long career in South Korea, established musical theatre star, Sophie Kim So-hyang moved to New York in 2010 to seek greater prospects.

Despite not knowing much English, Sophie Kim So-hyang was determined to build her career in the United States. Photo courtesy of: Klix Photography

Having played lead roles in several productions such as West Side Story, Fame and Rent in Korea, the 36-year-old said: “I have done a lot of theatre shows in Korea and after a long career, I felt really empty inside; that’s why I went to the United States (US) to learn more and to build my career.”

Her move shocked the people around her and many tried to dissuade her. However, she was determined to prove herself and further her career abroad.

Her journey though was far from smooth-sailing and she was often rejected at auditions due to the language barrier. She said: “There were so many difficulties language wise because English is not my first language and before I went there, I couldn’t speak English at all. (It was so difficult) I cried every single day and every single night.”

Undeterred, Kim enrolled into the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre Conservatory and woke up early every day to practise her English through repeatedly studying “songs, acting lines and monologues”.

Her efforts paid off and she became the first Asian to play the part of Sister Mary Robert, a quiet and timid nun in the musical Sister Act. Featuring original music by eight-time Oscar winner, Alan Menken, the American production is an adaptation of the 1992 comedy film of the same name.

Sophie Kim So-hyang (center) is the first Asian to play the role of Sister Mary Roberts in Sister Act. Photo courtesy of: Klix Photography

Associate director, Mr Steven Beckler said: “She was the best one for the part; she’s absolutely wonderful. (Her race was) not an issue, not at all.”

Thrilled to have landed her dream role, Kim feels a strong affinity with her character and finds her solo, “The Life I Never Led”, where she sings about her obedience and meek nature, especially relatable.

Kim said: “(Mary Robert is) so similar to me. In the US, I obeyed and followed the rules that people told me to as I didn’t know anything, anywhere or anyone. I was really weak, shy and kept apologizing all the time, just like her.”

She added that just like her character Mary Robert, she has grown braver and learnt more about herself in the past few years.

Following this Asian tour of Sister Act, Kim hopes to continue building her career in the US and continue breaking down barriers. She believes that “as long as you follow your heart and work hard”, there will be no lack of opportunities for Asians to be on Broadway.

Sister Act will be showing till May 28 at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.