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Stage West Community Playhouse stages Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I'

The richly dramatic musical The King and I has been charming audiences since it opened on Broadway in 1951, won four Tony Awards in 1952, then went on to win six Academy Awards as a movie in 1956 and four more Tonys for its 1996 Broadway revival.

Stage West Community Playhouse opens its version of the colorful show on Thursday and continues weekends through March 22.

Set in 1862, it's based on the true story of English widow and mother Anna Leonowens, who travels to the royal palace in Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand) to tutor the many wives and children of that country's likeable but arrogant King Mongkut.

The king (Peter Clapsis, Pseudolus in Funny/Forum) wants to learn the ways of the western world, not to become "westernized," but to understand the rapidly encroaching and changing world outside his borders.

Anna (Lynn Yarbrough, Mom in The Music Man) is determined to change the king, especially his penchant for polygamy, loveless marriages and slavery.

This makes for a serious culture clash between the two.

Anna quickly finds that all is not well in the king's household. There are jealousies among the wives and jostling for position. A new wife, Tuptim (Victoria Primosch, Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical) is distraught when she is given to the king because she loves Lun Tha (Mitchell Gonzalez, Richard Henry Lee in 1776), the emissary from Burma who has most unwillingly brought her as a gift.

Even so, the head wife, Lady Thiang (Karen Doxey, Dotty in Noises Off), sorrowfully tells Anna that the king cannot be questioned.

But Anna continues to question him, his values and his country's customs.

This isn't lost on either her son Louis (Dakota Ruiz, Mike in Willy Wonka) or the young Prince Chululongkorn (Matthew Romeo, A Show Palace Christmas).

Events come to a head when a British diplomat, Sir Edward Ramsey (George M. Germann), visits, and Tuptim and several other palace slaves present the Siamese version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, an open condemnation of slavery, with the implication that the king is tantamount to the evil "Simon of Legree."

Then Tuptim and Lun Tha run away, angering the king and leading to a confrontation between him and Anna and, eventually, Tuptim.

Though the story has a serious point, the musical is filled with lovely, upbeat Rodgers and Hammerstein songs: Hello, Young Lovers, We Kiss in a Shadow, Getting to Know You and the romp, Shall We Dance? when Anna and the King whirl around the throne room.

The 48-member cast includes the king's 13 wives, 10 children, five priests and many palace officials.

The director is Leanne Germann, with Chris Berke as musical director and Jeanine Martin as choreographer.

If you go

'The King and I'

Where: Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

When: Thursday and weekends through March 22. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $18, reserved seating. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (352) 683-5113.

Stage West Community Playhouse stages Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I' 02/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:35pm]
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