Kristen Faith Oei has been singing and harmonizing with her parents at church since she was four years old. Since then, she’s flown with Spider-Man, gone toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee and bowed to the King of Siam.
How did theatre become a part of your life?
I always had music in my life because both of my parents are singers. I was really good at moving so my parents put me in dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, ice skating…a little of everything. Not all of them stuck, but what did was dancing. I feel like I’ve been really lucky. I danced and sang separately my entire life and the theatre part almost just came naturally. The part that I’m still finding today is the acting side. When I was young, I was naturally shy to the point where I couldn’t even look people in the face when I talked to them. So the acting pushed me out of that.
How has The King and I changed your perspective on what you do?
One of the things I’ve loved about doing The King and I is having a cast that’s full of Asian actors. It’s such a family and a beautiful thing when you see actors coming together who all might have been the single Asian person picked to be in shows growing up. Now we are sharing the stage together, doing a beautiful show.
You’ve been a part of a few shows that have included diverse casts.
In Kung Fu, it was a completely diverse cast. It wasn’t all Asian people and there was a black actor playing a white character’s part. It was just about telling the story. In Spider-Man, never in a million years would I have imagined playing an All-American redhead. I never would have imagined that would happen but that was something Julie Taymor tried to bring to the stage.
Why do you do what you do?
The most important thing about performing is being able to move people. I can see the audience in the front during The King and I and every once in a while, I see people tear up. The other day, Kelli started to sing “Hello Young Lovers” and I saw a woman reach over and grab her husband’s hand as a tear fell down her cheek. It made me almost lose it. To me, that’s when we’ve done our job.
Check out The King and I on Broadway this fall!
Photography by Steven Gabriel
Photo Assistance by Michael Orlando