The much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece The King and Ihas opened with a glittering national premiere at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) presented by Opera Australia and John Frost. The Brisbane season of The King and I plays for strictly limited seven week season in QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until Sunday 1 June. The show then moves to the Princess Theatre in Melbourne from June 10 – August 17, and then to the Sydney Opera House where it runs from September 7 – November 1.
Australia’s favourite leading lady and four-time Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune plays English governess Anna Leonowens opposite internationally acclaimed baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the King in the Brisbane and Sydney seasons, hot from their success performing together in the national tour of South Pacific, also presented by Opera Australia and John Frost. In Melbourne, international stage and screen star Jason Scott Lee plays the King.
In the roles of British Diplomat Sir Edward Ramsey and Captain Orton is John Adam (The School For Wives, Frost/Nixon) while The Kralahome, the King’s Prime Minister, is played by Marty Rhone (The King and I – West End, Godspell). Lady Thiang will be played by Chinese-born Australian opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu (The King and I – 1991 Australian tour) and in the roles of the Burmese young lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim are Adrian Li Donni and Jenny Liu.
“I’m thrilled with the wonderful cast we’ve assembled for The King and I,” said John Frost. “I know this production will be as magnificent as the original, which is remembered as a milestone in Australian theatrical history. It brings me great joy to be able to return to this special production with Opera Australia following our huge success with South Pacific.”
“Teddy and Lisa coming together worked wonderfully well in South Pacific and it seemed to us that we should capitalize on that success and continue with it. We’re overjoyed Jason Scott L
ee will play the King for the Melbourne season after his huge success in the role in London. I know audiences will embrace this Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece as much as they did when John Frost and his creative team created this magnificent, opulent production in 1991,” said Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia Artistic Director.
The King and I was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth musical together and is considered one of the jewels in their crown. It was based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, which took its inspiration from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s.
The beautiful score includes the songs I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance? and Hello, Young Lovers.
A hit on Broadway in 1951, where it starred Gertrude Lawrence (who died during the season) and Yul Brynner, the show ran for three years before touring. The first London production opened in 1953, enjoying similar success. In 1956 it became a famous film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner who won an Academy Award for his performance.
John Frost’s now legendary Australian production premiered at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 1991. Directed by West End director Christopher Renshaw and starring Hayley Mills as Anna, it played to sell out houses around the country. In 1996, the production went on to win four Tony Awards on Broadway: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical (Donna Murphy), Best Scenic Design (Brian Thomson) and Best Costume Design (Roger Kirk). The Broadway season was followed by a US tour. In 2000, the production opened at the London Palladium with Elaine Paige as Anna where it played for nearly two years before embarking on a UK tour.
Christopher Renshaw returns to Australia to revive the production, with its stunning Thai-inspired set design by Brian Thomson, sumptuous costumes by Roger Kirk, lighting by Nigel Levings, sound design by Michael Waters and musical direction by Peter Casey. Susan Kikuchi will recreate the original Jerome Robbins choreography as well as the choreography of her mother Yuriko who appeared in the 1951 Broadway production and the 1956 film.
President and Executive Director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin said: “John Frost’s production of The King and I is a classic example of taking a theatrical risk – a risk that ended up paying off better than anyone could have imagined. John’s resume didn’t necessarily warrant him being handed the rights to one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s best shows, but he was enthusiastic and spirited – characteristics I am happy to say he still possesses today – and persuasive. Seeing the production in Melbourne was one of the most exciting nights of my life, and that started the worldwide roll-out which, of course, included a triumphant run on Broadway. I am so looking forward to seeing it again, and Opera Australia is the perfect modern partner.”
The King And I – Season Details
Brisbane -Lyric Theatre, Qpac -Now Playing to 1 June
Melbourne – Princess Theatre – From 10 June
Sydney- Joan Sutherland Theatre- From 7 September