Born To Sing

She’s just 18, but Shawna Masuda is already starring in her third musical of the year. And her eye remains on the big prize: Broadway

Friday - November 18, 2005
By Alice Keesing
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As a singing hostess at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Shawna Masuda performs for Racesen and Eri Nakagawa of Kailua
As a singing hostess at Romano’s Macaroni Grill,
Shawna Masuda performs for Racesen and
Eri Nakagawa of Kailua

You can look at Shawna Masuda - all 5-foot-nothing of her - and wonder from whence that incredible song voice comes. Full and shimmering, it sounds like something that should be coming from someone older and, well, bigger.

Diminutive she may be, but Masuda is making it big these days. That amazing soprano has helped her win not one, not two, but three leading roles in local shows this year. And this from someone who is just 18 years old and graduated from Aiea High in June.

“She is a dream - brightest talent I’ve seen in years,” says Vanita Rae Smith, long-time producer at Army Community Theatre, who directed Masuda in her break-out role in Miss Saigon earlier this year.

Masuda won praise for her powerful performance as Kim in the wartime love story, then went on to star as Belle in Beauty and the Beast at Diamond Head Theatre. And this month she’s back at Army Community Theatre co-starring in the Arabian fantasy Kismet.

Along the way, Masuda has won praise for her beautiful voice, her artistic expression and her professionalism. Not surprisingly, there is talk of Broadway in her future.

There were signs of the performer-tobe in Masuda’s small-kid times. Her mom, Lynn Masuda, remembers her daughter always singing and dancing to her music videos and performing for the family.

“I used to sing all the time when I was little before I even knew how to speak properly,” Masuda says. “I actually have videotapes of me sitting in the bathroom singing, and it’s so embarrassing ... I’m singing, like, Happy Birthday but with made-up words like ‘Happy Yoyo’ or something.”

When Masuda was in third grade at Calvary Christian School, her family got an inkling into the depth of her talent when she performed in a small Easter program.

“She shocked me,” Lynn Masuda says. “I didn’t know she was that good.”

As Masuda grew up, her life became a whirl of piano lessons, voice lessons, singing competitions and school productions. She had caught the performing bug and the drive to make it to the big time.

“I like the nervousness, as hard as that may be to believe,” she says. “I love to sing, I love to dance ... and just the thrill of performing for a live audience. You feed on each other’s energy.”

Her parents, Lynn and Darall Masuda, have been her biggest supporters. Over the years, they must have gone through a few sets of tires driving Masuda around the island to her lessons and performances. It wasn’t unusual for her parents to drive from Aiea to Waikiki twice or even three times a day, Lynn Masuda says. With no formal arts program at Aiea High School, the Masudas made the trek to Kaimuki High School so Shawna could join that school’s productions.

“It took up a lot of time,” Masuda says. “And it took a little toll on friendships. But then again, you make a lot of new friendships in theatre. School was hard. I had a little trouble during productions, I admit. But my parents kept me in line. If I had bad grades during one production, they would not let me do the next one. So I kept it up.”

These days Masuda is taking her core classes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And she just started a new job at the newly opened Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Ala Moana Center.

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