Raul Aranas recently guest starred on NBC’s “The Blacklist” The Major (No. 75), opposite series star James Spader and Lance Henriksen, where he portrayed Deputy Minister Mahmoud, the Malaysian deputy minister to the U.N. Click here to view the full episode on Hulu.com.
“Working on “The Blacklist” was a favorite project,” said Aranas. “I never realized how minimal/internal acting can be on TV. James was great to watch. He was very quiet and concentrated. But finally meeting Lance Henriksen made my day on the set. I have been a fan of his for a long time. And he was a gentleman and great to talk to.”
Last spring, Aranas’ portrayal of Fagan, the kindhearted yet miserly leader of the orphan pickpockets, was equal measures sinister and sympathetic, in the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) All-Asian production of OLIVER! at The Pershing Square Signature Center in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre. I had not seen him in ages onstage or off, so we had a meal between shows to catch up on life, taking a walk down memory lane and talking about what he’s been up to lately.
National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More
“Playing Fagin in NAAP’s OLIVER! was extremely exhilarating,” said Aranas. “I really loved working with Steven, Baayork, Zoe. What a great cast!
The National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) mission is to showcase the work of Asian-American theatre artists through performance, outreach and educational programming. NAAP has produced over the past four years Oklahoma, Carousel, and Hello Dolly! as part of their Re-Discover Series using all Asian casts.
The setting for last year’s production moved across the pond to Charles Dickens’ London with the production of the classic award-winning musical, OLIVER!. With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, OLIVER! has become one of the most popular and best-loved musicals in the world. The production was helmed by Steven Eng, with choreography by Broadway legend Baayork Lee, the original ‘Connie Wong’ in the original cast of A Chorus Line, two of the three founders of National Asian Artists Project (NAAP).
In 2013, Aranas co-starred as Horace Vandergelder opposite Christine Toy Johnson as Dolly Levi, at The Pershing Square Signature Center in the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) All-Asian production of Hello Dolly, directed by Lee Roy Reams, director of Carol Channing’s last Broadway revival in 1995, when it was last seen in New York.
“I feel NAAP has a great artistic sensibility that I find lacking in other theatrical companies,” said Aranas. “I met Baayork many years ago when she first directed a production of The King and I. I really liked her energy and the fact that she is a great supporter of kids in the Chinese/Asian community by giving them a place to artistically express themselves (choir. etc.).”
Raul Aranas is an award winning actor, director, singer, musician and an avid cyclist. He described his first professional gig, El Grande de Coca Cola in Philadelphia many moons ago, as “a hoot.” The Broadway vet has appeared on the Great White Way in Miss Saigon, The King and I, Loose Ends and Flower Drum Song. His Off-Broadway credits include Polo in the Michael Greif helmed Giant at The Public; Beast (NYTW); Mother Courage (Delacorte/Public Theatre); Dogeaters (Public Theater), Jungle of Cities (Public Theater); The Tooth Of Crime (La Mama Etc.); Shogun Macbeth (Pan Asian Rep).
During his stint as The Engineer in the 1st National Company of Miss Saigon, he received a Helen Hayes Award, the Carbonell Award and a Jefferson Award Nomination, and appeared in the international production at the Theatre Royale, London.
“Of course, Miss Saigon was a milestone in my career…not just because of the financial rewards, but the challenge of performing such a demanding role approximately 2000 times!”
“Performance-wise, the star of the show, by a hair, is Aranas’ Engineer who is wonderfully crass and slimy.”
whatsonstage.com: Miss Saigon
broadwayworld.com: Ogunquit’s ‘Miss Saigon’ Pulses with Urgency of Life and Death
In 2012, Aranas was cast in the Theater of the Stars production of The King and I as The Krahlahome, while his son, Raphael, played Prince Chulalongkorn, in a production helmed by Baayork Lee.
“Being able to tour The King and I with my son Raphael…we bonded not only as father and son, but as friends,” shared Aranas.
Theater of the Stars Presents The King and I Starring Ronobir Lahiri, Victoria Mallory, Raul Aranas, Ali Ewoldt, Josh Dela Cruz, Jee Hyun Lim and Raphael Aranas, Helmed by Baayork Lee on Tour through September 11, 2012
Aranas’ favorite theatrical experience is his portrayal of The Reciter in the North Shore Theatre production of Pacific Overtures in 2003, for which he garnered an Irne Award.
“The role of the Reciter — the evening’s sardonic narrator — has so much of the King of Siam built in that it pays to cast a “King” actor to portray him and Raul Aranas, who has both a “King” and an “Engineer” under his belt, makes a handsome, commanding figure carved from fire and ivory.”
“The complex retelling of this pivotal event in world history and its consequences is overseen throughout, as in “Into the Woods”, by a Reciter Raul Aranas, who also becomes the Shogun and the 14th Emperor. Aranas’ dynamic presence holds the show together.”
aislesay.com Pacific Overtures
“Raul Aranas, the Reciter/Shogun/Narrator, are new. Aranas exhibits dignity, force, skill with accents, and a strong baritone.”
boston.com: Topical ‘Pacific Overtures’ Dazzles
His other regional credits include Giant (Signature Theatre, Virginia), OLIVER! (Gateway Playhouse, Bellport), Miss Saigon (5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle; Ogunquit Playhouse, Maine), Exit the King (Cleveland Playhouse), Treasure Island (Cincinnati Playhouse).
Aranas’ latest film project is a neo-noir indie crime thriller, Manhattan Nocturne, starring Adrian Brody and Jennifer Beals, and directed by Brian DeCubellis.
“I play Luis, a super that shows Adrian a mysterious building,” said Aranas. “That was a lot of fun. I love noir as a genre in film.” Aranas has also appeared on television on “Law And Order,” “Gideon Oliver,” “One Life To Live,” and “Blue Bloods;” other film credits include Burn After Reading, Buzzkill, Company Man, Afterwards and JFK.
“My most interesting film project was JFK,” said Aranas. “Getting to work with Oliver Stone, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, and Joey Pesci…and the whole conspiracy theory about the assassination is always fascinating.”
Aranas is an accomplished musician, who has played the guitar since he was 11.
“My father bought me a guitar from Woolworth so I wouldn’t be bored traveling around with my parents,” shared Aranas. “I love jazz and country/folk music, but I listen to all kinds of music from classical to blue grass. Louis Armstrong said, ‘there are only 2 kinds of music…good and bad.’ But my songs are ballads because they tell stories both personal and cultural.”
Lia: What is the back story of A Chinaman’s Chance?
Raul: Well, simply put, A CHINAMAN’S CHANCE was inspired by the fact that the Chinese railway workers were dissed in spite of the fact that they were mostly responsible for the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad.
Click here to listen to more of Aranas’ original compositions on his youtube channel.
Lia: What are your favorite films?
Raul: My favorite films are The Godfather 1 and 2, On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gladiator, Blade Runner, One Eyes Jacks, Out of the Past and West Side Story. Great acting and directing…beyond reproach.
Lia: Any directors or playwrights that you would like to work with?
Raul: I would have loved to work with Elia Kazan.
Lia: Do you have any dream roles?
Raul: I would like to play Joe Keller in All My Sons, and perhaps Sweeney Todd.
Other Articles by Lia Chang
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Raul Aranas, Kate Baldwin, Brian d’Arcy James, P.J. Griffith, Bobby Steggert and Michele Pawk Set for New York Premiere of GIANT at The Public Theater, October 26-December 2, 2012
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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Crafting a Career
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