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Tarpon musical is a royal lesson in tolerance

For more than a half century, Rodgers and Hammerstein's opulent musical The King and I has been a favorite in live theater and on the movie screen.

The Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center will present its version of the beloved musical on Thursday and on subsequent weekends through July 27.

It's the story of a proper English widow named Anna, who, with her young son, goes to Siam (Thailand) in the 1860s as a tutor to the numerous children of the powerful King Mongkut.

There's an instant clash of cultures. Anna sees the autocratic king as a semibarbarian. He sees her as an unreasonable woman who doesn't know her place.

As the two get to know each other, they begin to respect their differences, with the king becoming more democratic and Anna becoming more tolerant.

It is filled with familiar songs: Hello, Young Lovers; Getting to Know You; and the resounding Shall We Dance? when the king and Anna dance around the stage, her hoop skirts flying.

A highlight is the musical-within-the-musical, The Small House of Uncle Thomas, in which one of the king's unwilling wives, Tuptim, lets it be known that she isn't happy and would rather be somewhere else.

Playing the king will be Tampa Bay area theater stalwart Jim Demetrius, who has won numerous Lary Awards for his set designs, as well as for his acting (Odd Couple, best actor, 2000; South Pacific, favorite supporting actor, 1989).

Demetrius began making a name for himself in theater more than 20 years ago in the memorable role of Melvin P. Thorpe in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at the Encore Dinner Theatre in St. Petersburg and as several characters at the Boatyard Stage. Both theaters are now closed. He has performed at and designed sets for several other area theaters, including several productions at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center.

Playing Anna is Kathleen Goelz, most recently seen in the center's production of The World Goes 'Round. She played the lead role of Fiona in the Francis Wilson Playhouse's production of Brigadoon in 2002.

The director is Jamie Bierchen, a frequent actor and director with the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of Clearwater and singer with the New Century Opera.

The choreographer is Jane Geddings (My Fair Lady, Mame); the music director is Mark Jelks (The World Goes 'Round; choreographer for Carousel).

If you go

What: The King and I.

Where: Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St., Tarpon Springs

When: Thursday and weekends through July 27. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $18 for adults, $12 for students and $16 for center members, reserved seating. Call (727) 942-5605.

Tarpon musical is a royal lesson in tolerance 07/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 3, 2008 6:58pm]

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