Seattle audiences are in for a treat! The national touring production of the Tony-winning 2015 revival of “The King and I” is coming to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre next week. The show runs January 24-February 3, 2017, ticket info below.
The beloved Tony-winning musical, “The King and I”, gets a Broadway revival every decade or so. It is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth collaboration, featuring some of Richard Rodgers’ most beautiful music with Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics and book.
The current tour stars Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna Leonowen and Jose Llana as the King of Siam. The tour seems to have really perfect the recipe with the combination of these two. The chemistry is palpable and felt by the entire audience.
Among her many prestigious credits, Kelly, an English actress and singer, starred as Mary Poppins in London, for which she received the 2005 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She later played the role on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 2004 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” as Hodel. Most recently, Kelly starred as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the world premiere of “Finding Neverland” at the American Repertory Theater and reprised the role on Broadway.
A Filipino-American singer and actor, Llana garnered rave reviews when he took over the role of the King, replacing Ken Watanabe on Broadway. It seemed that Watanabe struggled with the character and audiences had trouble understanding him. That’s not a problem with Llana’s King.
Jose Llana knows the musical well. He actually made his Broadway debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 revival, starring as the King and Donna Murphy as Anna. His additional Broadway credits include “Wonderland”, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, “Flower Drum Song”, “Rent”, and “Streetcorner Symphony”.
“The King and I” is based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam”. It takes place in 1860’s Bangkok and tells the story of the relationship between a British schoolteacher and the King of Siam, who brings her to Siam to educate his children and wives.
The musical was an instant hit when it first opened on Broadway in March of 1951. It starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna Leonowens, and a young actor/director named Yul Brynner as the King. The musical was daring for its time, taking on issues of sexism, slavery, tyranny, feminism, and racism.
Since then, many actresses have successfully portrayed Anna. However, Brynner’s Tony-winning and Oscar-winning performance (the 1956 film) set the bar high for subsequent actors taking on the role of the King. Brynner played the role for 30 years. Llana’s performance may be one of the exceptions.
At heart, the musical is a love story between two people who cannot and will not acknowledge their feelings for one another. Two secondary love stories unfold as well: Lady Thiang, the King’s official wife and her loyalty to the King, and then there is the forbidden love between doomed lovers, Tuptim and Lun Tha.
R&H’s gorgeous score features Broadway classics, such as “Hello Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” “I Have Dreamed,” and “Shall We Dance.” The show is directed by Tony-winning Bartlett Sher (2008 “South Pacific” revival), former artistic director of the now basically defunct Intiman Theatre, helmed Lincoln Center’s 2015 revival.
“The King and I” runs January 24-February 3, 2017 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre; tickets are available here, or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office, M-F, 10am to 6pm.
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