A Brazilian Twist

Book & Lyrics by Karen Zacarías
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Published by Dramatic Publishing

Upcoming Productions


A spunky orphan girl on the streets of Rio de Janeiro discovers a new kind of family in this musical with a Brazilian beat inspired by Charles Dickens’s classic novel.

“OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist shines a light on continuing child poverty in our cities today, but ends on a note of hope – all set to a samba beat and brightened with the flamboyant costumes of Carnival.” – Amy Alipio, Our Kids


Felicia Curry, The Kennedy Center. Photo credit: Teresa Wood

OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist was commissioned by the John F Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington DC, and was first workshopped at the 2014 New Visions/New Voices Festival under the direction of Scot Reese. It premiered at the Kennedy Center in January, 2016 under the direction of Juliette Carrillo, with music direction by guitarist Richard Miller.

Patricia Jewel and Ella Saldana North, MainStreet Theatre, Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Photo Credit: Ed Krieger

“Zacarías explores the immense socioeconomic inequality in a modern, large Latin American city by telling a familiar story in a way that even an elementary school age child could understand. The message offered within the play, likewise, is an important one for even the youngest theatregoer. Hope can survive.”  – Jennifer Perry, BWW Review

Musical Numbers


2. OBRIGADA - Oli, Ensemble
2. OBRIGADA - Oli, Ensemble


4. A LITTLE BIT MORE - Oli, Nanci, Zé
4. A LITTLE BIT MORE - Oli, Nanci, Zé

5. EAT OR BE EATEN - Sykes
5. EAT OR BE EATEN - Sykes

6. I'M GUILTY - Oli

7. A VIDA BOA - All
7. A VIDA BOA - All

8. THE STORM - All


10. CARNAVAL - All
10. CARNAVAL - All


Buy the demo from Bandcamp.
Featuring Elia Saldana (Oli)  Justin Deninger (Zé), Justin Figueroa (Sykes), Scott Graff (Falcao), Eve La Puma (Nanci), Sharmila G. Lash (Iemanja), and the composer (Rosa Maria).

Cast members at the Kennedy Center. Photo credit: Teresa Wood

Production Elements

Max Torres, Anthea Neri Best, Ella Saldana North, MainStreet Theatre, Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Photo Credit: Ed Krieger

Cast: 4 Women, 3 Men

DIRECTOR / IEMANJA – Goddess of the Sea, also plays JUDGE (Mezzo)
ACTOR 1 / ROSA MARIA – a fearful rich woman (Alto)
ACTOR 4 / NANCÍ – a world-weary young woman (Alto)
KID in AUDIENCE / OLI – a pure, innocent, kind and smart little girl (Mezzo)

ACTOR 2 / FALCÃO – a charismatic con man (Baritone)
ACTOR 3 / SYKES – a smooth-talking, crooked, unredeemable policeman (Bari/Tenor)
ACTOR 5 / ZÉ ESQUIVA – a crafty, sly, clever boy (Tenor)

(l-r) Erika Rose, James Konicek, Arturo Soria, Sasha Olinick, and Felicia Curry at the Kennedy Center. Photo credit: Teresa Wood

Music:  Samba, Bossanova, Baiao, and other traditional Brazilian songs scored for Guitar, Electric Bass, and Percussion.  Accompaniment tracks available.
Musical Difficulty: Moderate
Technical Requirements: Minimal
Suggested Audience: Young Audiences/Families

“We are dropped into a colorful world of hope, trust, scandal and choice.” – Asha T’nae, Maryland Theatre Guide


KAREN ZACARÍAS (Book & Lyrics) is hailed by American Theater Magazine as one of the ten most produced playwrights in the U.S. and the most produced Latina playwright in the nation. Her comedy Native Gardens,  about race, class, plants, and fences, hit a political zeitgeist and was one of the top produced plays of 2019. Her musical homage to the telenovela Destiny of Desire, “a terrifically entertaining theatrical roller coaster”(Charles McNulty, LA Times) has sold-out the largest regional theaters from East to West (Arena Stage, The Goodman, Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and is now heading to Broadway. Her gripping drama The Copper Children,  about a controversial child separation case in 1905, just had an acclaimed world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and her bilingual translation of Romeo y Juliet will premiere at California Shakespeare Festival in September of 2021.  Other award-winning plays include  The Book Club PlayLegacy of LightMariela in the DesertThe Sins of Sor Juana, and the adaptations of Just Like UsInto the Beautiful North, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. Her work has also been produced at The Kennedy Center, The Guthrie, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Goodman, South Coast Rep, and many more.

Karen is also one of the most produced children’s theater playwrights in the country. She is the author of ten renowned TYA musicals with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma including Ella Enchanted, Einstein is a Dummy, Ferdinand the Bull, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Chasing George Washington, Jane of the Jungle, and Frida Libre.  Karen is also the author of the Marvel play Squirrel Girl Goes to College, and the librettist of several Ballets. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage, a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons – a large national organization of artists seeking to update the American narrative with the stories of Latinos – and she is the founder of the award-winning Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT). YPT was cited by the Obama administration as one of the best arts-education programs on the nation.

Karen was voted 2019 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine for her advocacy work involving the arts. She is an inaugural 2019 Sine Fellow for Policy Innovation at American University for advocating for the intersectionality of art and policy and was selected by The League of Professional Theatre Women to receive the 2019 Lee Reynolds Award given annually to a woman in theater who has helped illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural, or political change. She was awarded the 2019 Medallion by the Children’s Theater Foundation of America for excellence and craft and a 2019 speaker at TEDEX Broadway. A graduate of Stanford University and Boston University, Karen lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children. She is represented by the Gersh Agency. www.KarenZacarias.com

DEBORAH WICKS LA PUMA (music) – see her bio page


Richard Miller (Guitar/Music Director), Leo Lucini (Bass), Bruno Lucini (Percussion)

Buy the script from Dramatic Publishing.

Buy the demo from Bandcamp.
Featuring Elia Saldana (Oli)  Justin Deninger (Zé), Justin Figueroa (Sykes), Scott Graff (Falcao), Eve La Puma (Nanci), Sharmila G. Lash (Iemanja), and the composer (Rosa Maria).

Buy sheet music at Sheet Music Plus to
Jeitinho Brasileiro
A Little Bit More
A Vida Boa
A Wish Out to Sea
Carnaval Finale

Patricia Jewel, Rueben Uy, Gigi Bermingham, Anthea Neri Best, Janet Greaves, and Max Torres, MainStreet Theatre, Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Photo Credit: Ed Krieger

Vocal Work Out! CD

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