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PREVIEW: Getting to Know Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

One of the many expansive dance numbers in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

New musical writers have it tough: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have an immense head start. By the time the most famous dynamic duo of musical theatre first teamed up, Rodgers had already written 29 musicals – a level of experience that is almost unimaginable in today’s high cost environment. By the time Rodgers and Hammerstein teamed up to write 1951’s The King and I, which opens at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow, the pair was waving a Pulitzer Prize for South Pacific and batting a sensational .75. Even their show Allegro, a turkey compared to their hits, still made money on Broadway. It’s no wonder that old-school revivals of Rodgers and Hammerstein music shows are all the rage.

The Songs of The King & I
“My Lord and Master”
“Hello, Young Lovers”
“A Puzzlement”
“The Royal Bangkok Academy”
“Getting to Know You”
“We Kiss in a Shadow”
“Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”
“Something Wonderful”
“Buddhist Prayer”
“Western People Funny” – Lady Thiang and Wives
“I Have Dreamed” – Tuptim and Lun Tha
“Hello, Young Lovers” (reprise) – Anna
“The Small House of Uncle Thomas” (Ballet) – Tuptim and Wives
“Song of the King” – King and Anna
“Shall We Dance?” – Anna and the King

The upcoming tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, as it’s billed (apparently for the benefit of those who don’t know the show but know their names) is a classic, big-budget version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein formula:

  1. Find an interesting story,
  2. Write an intelligent book,
  3. Draft clever and flowing song lyrics,
  4. Add easy-to-sing yet elegant, beautiful melodies,
  5. Rinse, wash, & repeat.

Interestingly, the famous “Getting to Know You” uses a melody from a song cut from South Pacific.

Here’s a look at what that looks like onstage (all photos by Matthew Murphy):

Tuptim (Manna Nichols) and Lun Tha (Kavin Panmeechao) share a moment. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Anna (Laura Michelle Kelly) and the King of Siam (Jose Llana) lounge under a Buddha statue. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Anna (Laura Michelle Kelly) instructs the King of Siam’s children on proper tea etiquette. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
A dance scene from Act II of the Broadway tour. The original Broadway production’s costume dress for Anna weighed an impressive 70 pounds; the original Anna (Gertrude Lawrence) was buried in it after her sudden death from cancer. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I opens Feb. 28 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis and plays through Mar. 5.

Twin Cities Arts Reader