Chinese-American kids win roles in Oliver!

Updated: 2014-06-05 08:14

By Adelina Zhang (China Daily USA)

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The National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) has partnered with New York City Chinatown's Yung Wing (P.S. 124) Elementary school to help cast a production of the Broadway musical Oliver!, on June 5-7 at the Pershing Square Signature Center on Times Square. Their hope is to nurture and inspire the theater artists of tomorrow.

NAAP, whose mission is to showcase the work of Asian-American theater artists through performances and education programs, works through schools' theater clubs.

"We want to reach out to the kids because they are the next generation of theater artists," said Nina Zoie Lam, a co-founder of NAAP. "It is important that Asian Americans become a part of the tapestry of American theater."

About 30 Asian-American students audition each year to be a part of the school's theater club, which is run by Baayork Lee, founder and executive artistic producer of NAAP and choreographer on Oliver!

Theater club members were then given the opportunity to audition for the production of the musical Oliver!, written by Lionel Bart and based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens. Sixteen of the 22 children cast members are P.S. 124 students or graduates within the last two years.

"It's fun because I have never been in a musical with adults before and have never performed in an actual theater," said Kirsten Shyu, a fifth grader who plays an orphan in the show.

The musical will also include 25 adult cast members and 20 members of the NAAP Chorus.

Four years ago, P.S. 124 got together with NAAP and ITheatrics, another group that helps school kids experience musical theater, to give students the opportunity to practice performing art skills.

"Baayork Lee is the force behind getting Asian students parts in and learning Oliver!," said Alice Hom, principal of P.S. 124. "This opportunity is wonderful for them. I have seen a number of students in the program become more mature, self-assured and motivated."

"The goal for the students is to discover who they are, have them not be emerged in books and see the world around them," said Lee. "Acting can open up their world to find out who they really are as a person."

ITheatrics hosts an annual junior theater festival that brings together about 3,000 students and has selected schools perform. Last winter, P.S. 124's theater club performed an excerpt from the play Aladdin Kids.

During the after school program, students prepare with professional Broadway musical performers and Lee for their upcoming school production, Aladdin Kids, on June 24.

Chinese-American kids win roles in <EM>Oliver!</EM>

Students and alumni of Yung Wing (P.S. 124) Elementary School, located in Manhattan's Chinatown, rehearse in a Broadway musical, Oliver! at the Pershing Square Signature Center in Times Square on Wednesday. Adelina Zhang / For China Daily USA