National Asian Artists Project Presents Oliver! the Musical

By Joy Chiang Ling

It is rare to see an all-Asian American cast in the performing arts, especially one that defies Asian stereotypes and challenges the actors to perform in roles that aren’t typically suited to them. Oliver!, a classical Broadway musical created by British writer and composer Lionel Bart, has been adapted by the National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) to highlight the talents of Asian-American theatre artists. The musical was brought to completion with the help of director Steven Eng, choreographer Baayork Lee, 20 child actors, 25 professional actors and 20 members of the NAAP Broadway Community Chorus. Notable actors include Raul Aranas as Fagin, Anthea Neri as Nancy, Scott Watanabe as Mr. Bumble, Cindy Cheung as Widow Corney, David Shih as Mr. Sowerberry and Bonale Zahn Fambrini as Oliver.

Set in 1830’s London, Oliver! tells the tale of its titular orphan character, Oliver Twist, who is inducted into a gang of pickpockets led by an elder mentor named Fagin. The setting of the musical is interesting as it forces actors to assume a foreign role: lower class Londoners. The actors did a good job at imitating their respective English accents without sounding too exaggerated or fake, as some American actors tend to do.

Also impressive were the musical scores and dancing, which made creative use of the stage and its minimal props. Songs such as “Food, Glorious Food” and “I’d Do Anything” were delightfully choreographed, and the colorful costume design helped enhance its spectacle.

The highlights of the show, however, were the child actors that took on the roles of Oliver and his fellow child orphans. The young performing artists, most of whom are students from Manhattan Chinatown elementary school PS 124, attracted the adoration of the audience for their endearing qualities and budding talent. Each child adapted to the stage quickly, and expressed individual personalities despite being minor characters in the play.

The NAAP’s adaptation of Oliver! is clearly a work of passion. Each actor showed great joy performing on stage, and their energy will grasp the attention of each audience that they perform for. This musical is an inspiring representation of what the Asian-American performing arts community is capable of.

Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan also attended the preview night to support National Asian Artists Project!

Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan, NAAP Executive Artistic Director Baayork Lee

For tickets, please visit:

NAAP Broadway Community Chorus

Bonale Zahn Fambrini as Oliver

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