Understanding Lewis: An Original Musical Written by Bishop’s Student Bobby Fenway Chiu (‘26)

Understanding Lewis: An Original Musical Written by Bishop’s Student Bobby Fenway Chiu (‘26)

“I would just start singing about what I was feeling in the moment, and then once I had the melody, I would sit down at the piano and put the chords to it…and it would kind of turn into a song,” Bobby Fenway Chiu (‘26) explained. 

Bobby first fell in love with music when he was just five years old, starring in Tacky the Penguin. “I was cast as the ensemble, but the girl that was playing Tacky backed out, and so they asked me, this little kindergartner, to be the lead…. I waddled on and I just had so much fun. It kind of just spiraled from there,” Bobby laughed. Since Tacky the Penguin, Bobby has professionally acted and has performed in many local theater productions, such as Mary Poppins, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Matilda. 

Alongside acting, Bobby has found a passion for singing and songwriting, and released his first album on Spotify titled One Cup of Water, featuring seven original songs, in June of 2023. 

Bobby has been singing and acting from a young age, and his passions have blossomed into writing his own musical, called Understanding Lewis, which alludes to the archetypes that are in the story of Alice in Wonderland. Understanding Lewis will premiere on July 18th, 2024.
(Bobby Chiu (’26))

A talented actor, singer, and dancer, Bobby wrote his own musical, titled “Understanding Lewis,” which will be produced by JCompany Theater and presented on July 18th, 2024. 

Can you tell us about the musical that you are currently producing?

It’s called Understanding Lewis. It’s kind of riffing off and alluding to the archetypes that are in the story of Alice in Wonderland.  It’s really fun. I’m really excited about it.  Basically, there is an older man, and there’s a little girl, and both of their lives are very lonely, and it’s about how they accidentally stumble into each other’s lives, and there’s a connection between them that takes away some of their loneliness, and it inspires them to get their lives back on track.

What inspired you to write this? 

I have been an Alice in Wonderland fan ever since I was really, really little. I would go to Disneyland, I remember, and I would just go on the Alice in Wonderland ride over and over again, and I would play musical chairs with Alice in Wonderland at that little corner coffee shop that they have on Main Street. And so I think that’s a big part of it. And what happened was, I was kind of going through and I found there were a lot of Alice in Wonderland musicals that already existed, but a lot of them were really campy and I felt that I wanted to try my own take on it, and write something that was rooted in reality, but still had the wonder and the playfulness of Alice in Wonderland

What was your process like? 

I started last summer after freshman year, and that’s when I started writing the first couple songs, and I have been working on it up to this date. It is still a work in progress. All of the songs are written, but I’m still fine tuning the score and the script. A lot of times, I’d know what I wanted the song to be about, and so I kind of knew what the general gist of the lyrics would sound like to help the story. And then from there, I would try to write the lyrics and the melody simultaneously, just in my head, then once I had an idea of what I wanted that to sound like, I would sit down at the piano and put chords to it, and then I would develop the piano part further from there, and in some cases, include other instruments too. 

When and where is it going to be performed?  

It’s the JCompany Theater, where I did my first production. I’m really, really excited. It is going to be over the summer. Normally they do what they call a “mystery flavor,” and the audience doesn’t know what they’re going to see, and the actors don’t know what they’re auditioning for. But, they’re changing it up, and they announced what the play is this year. It’s a really quick timeline. I think there are going to be nine rehearsals, and then one show on July 18th. 

What is your role in the audition process? Will you help with casting? 

Hopefully, but I’m not sure. In the beginning, when we were first talking to the director there about doing the show, I said that I wanted a say in casting because I think it’s a really big part of what makes the show come into life for the actors themselves, especially with a world premiere, where it’s never been done before, so there’s no reference for any of the parts. So hopefully, and probably.  

If you’re interested in watching the performance, the show will be held at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center on July 18th, 2024, at 7:00 pm!

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