For the final production of its critically acclaimed 2016-17 “Dream Big” SunTrust Broadway Series, the Durham Performing Arts Center is presenting eight performances of the national tour of the Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony Award®-winning 2015 Broadway Revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, directed by Bartlett Sher and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, based on Jerome Robbins’ choreography for the musical’s original 1951 Broadway production, which ran for 1,246 performances between March 29, 1951 and March 20, 1954 and won five 1952 Tonys, including the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The show’s 2015 Broadway Revival, which was lauded as “first-rate” and “sumptuous” by The New York Times and “too beautiful to miss” by New York Magazine, opened on April 16, 2015 and closed on June 26, 2016 after 499 performances. It won four 2015 Tony Awards, including the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, plus the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical or Revue.
Based on the 1946 film Anna and the King of Siam, which was based on a 1944 historical novel with the same name by Presbyterian missionary Margaret Landon, The King and I made its Broadway debut on March 29, 1951 at the St. James Theatre, under the direction of John Van Druten and legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins. It ran for 1,246 performances and was the fourth-longest-running Broadway musical when closed on March 20, 1954. The inaugural presentation of The King and I, with melodies by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II, won the 1952 Tony Award for Best Musical and four other Tonys, including Best Actor (Yul Brynner as the King) and Best Actress (Gertrude Lawrence as Anna Leonowens).
King Mongkut of Siam became Yul Brynner’s signature role, and Gertrude Lawrence continued to play Anna until three weeks before her death in 1952. In the Academy Award®-winning 1956 motion-picture version of The King and I, directed by Walter Lang, Brynner played the King opposite a new Anna, Deborah Kerr. He won a Best Actor Oscar®, and she received a Best Actress nomination.
Indeed, The King and I became a meal ticket for Yul Brynner. He once estimated that he had racked up 4,000 performances in the role.
The current national tour, produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group of London, NETworks Presentations LLC of Columbia, MD, and the Lincoln Center Theater of New York City, commenced on Oct. 30, 2016. It stars Jose Llana as the fiercely autocratic but reform-minded King Mongkut of Siam (1804-68) and Olivier Award® winner Laura Michelle Kelly as the widowed English schoolteacher Anna Harriette Leonowens (1831-1915), whom the king hired in 1862 to teach his royal wives and children. Their co-stars include Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, Brian Rivera as The Kralahome, Manna Nichols as Tuptim, Kavin Panmeechao as Lun Tha, Anthony Chan as Prince Chulalongkorn, Graham Montgomery as Louis Leonowens, and Baylen Thomas as Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsey.
In the DPAC news release for this show, director Bartlett Sher praised his leading man and leading lady to the skies:
“Jose [Llana] was so superb on Broadway in The King and I that I begged him to join us on the tour, and I feel we are incredibly lucky to have him. He brings such joy and virility and strength to the King. And he is one of Broadway’s great talents.
“Laura Michelle [Kelly] has one of the best voices on Broadway, matched with an extraordinary heart. Her work on Finding Neverland [in which she played Sylvia Llewelyn Davies] and Mary Poppins [in which she played the title role] distinguished both of those shows with her natural grace and joy. She will be an exquisite Anna Leonowens.” Kelly starred as Mary Poppins on Broadway in 2009-11 and, earlier, in London’s West End, where she won a 2005 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Also according to the DPAC news release:
“On the current tour, “Bartlett Sher is reunited with the award-winning creative team from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza. The King and I has music direction by Ted Sperling, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber (Tony Award winner for The King and I), lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Scott Lehrer, and casting by Telsey + Company/Abbie Brady-Dalton, CSA…..
“One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, The King and I boasts a score that features such beloved classics as “Getting to Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” “I Have Dreamed,” and “Something Wonderful.” Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.”
There is considerable controversy over whether the source of The King and I, Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel, is historically accurate. The real King Maha Mongkut (a.k.a. King Rama IV) was born on October 18, 1804 in Bangkok in the kingdom of Siam (now Thailand). He finally ascended his father’s throne in 1851, and he opened his country to Western influence and initiated many internal reforms.
The 19th century’s most famous English governess, Anna Leonowens, did not arrive in Bangkok until 1862. She taught the king’s wives and children for five years; and Leonowens had already left Siam when King Mongkut contracted malaria and died in 1868 on his 64th birthday.
Anna Leonowens later wrote two books, The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and The Romance of the Harem (1872). Leonowens’ exotic sojourn in Siam subsequently inspired Margaret Landon to write Anna and the King of Siam, which provided the story for The King and I, the 1951 musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, as well as four motion pictures — Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The King and I (1956), the animated version of The King and I (1999), and Anna and the King (1999)) — and the 1972 TV series Anna and the King.
SECOND OPINION: June 2nd Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Logan A. White for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/the-king-and-i-has-a-contemporary-feel/; June 1st Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW TV interview with actor Jose Llana, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Jose-Llana-of-THE-KING-I-National-Tour-20170601; and May 30th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/entertainment/article153415609.html.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I at 7:30 p.m. June 6-8, 8 p.m. June 9, 2 and 8 p.m. June 10, and 1 and 6:30 8 p.m. June 11 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35 and up. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2212145.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIgzBzp1Szg.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-king-and-i-on-sale-at-dpac-on-nov-12.
DPAC‘S 2016-17 “DREAM BIG” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/direct-from-new-york-nederlander-presents-suntrust-broadway-at-dpac-2016-2017-season.
TOUR CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM BIOS: http://thekinganditour.com/bios/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, June 10th, performance.
The King and I (1951 Broadway and 1953 West End musical): http://www.lct.org/shows/king-and-i/ (official website for Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway production), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-king-and-i-5067 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.lct.org/media/filer_public/bf/81/bf81c231-cb24-411c-8e85-59fc428ebbdc/lct_the-king-and-i_final.pdf (Lincoln Center Theater).
The King and I (1956 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/80309/The-King-and-I/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049408/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I_(1956_film) (Wikipedia).
Richard Rodgers (New York City composer, 1902-79): http://www.rnh.com/bio/175/Rodgers-Richard (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/richard-rodgers-8323 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006256/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rodgers (Wikipedia).
Oscar Hammerstein II (New York City lyricist and librettist, 1895-1960): http://www.rnh.com/bio/154/Hammerstein-II-Oscar (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/oscar-hammerstein-ii-7965 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0358564/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Hammerstein_II (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)