By Mary Boyle
Rodgers & Hammerstein are one of the most familiar duos Broadway Musicals. The darlings of the "Golden Age" of musical theatre in the 1950's and 60's, the composer and lyricist/dramatist had a string of hits, including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, and Cinderella. It could easily be argued that a cultural education is not complete without taking in the works of these two artists and, luckily, the Broadway at the Marcus Center series has come to the rescue for Milwaukee area audiences with Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.
The King and I is based on the true story of a widowed Welsh woman, Anna Leonowens (Angela Baumgardener), who accepts a position as a school teacher to the many children, and wives, of the King of Siam (Pedro Ka'Awaloa) in the late 1860's, along with her young son, Louis (Hayden Bercy). While the King recognizes the value and importance of a Western education for his children, he and Anna are both very stubborn, and the clash of cultures leads to struggles, with an overtone of romance.
The story of Anna and the King has remained remarkably popular over time. Leonowen's memoirs were made into a best-selling novel in 1944, the Broadway Musical in 1951, and the 1956 film starring Yul Brynner as the King of Siam, as well as other films, and even a television series. The music from the Broadway show — particularly "Getting to Know You" — is widely recognized, even by people who haven't seen the musical or film.
This Broadway production, based on the Lincoln Center Theater production, is visually stunning and well cast. Angela Baumgardner's voice is divine, and Pedro Ka'Awaloa is fantastic as the King of Siam. My favorite part is the play within the play: Siam meets Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, resulting in a play called "The Small House of Uncle Thomas." Funny, romantic, and still culturally relevant, The King and I is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I runs through April 14th at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts Uihlein Hall, located at 929 N. Water St. in Milwaukee. For tickets, call 414.273.7206, or online at: https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/king-and-i
The 2019/20 Broadway at the Marcus Center Season has an amazing lineup of shows, including Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, Miss Saigon, and My Fair Lady. Find out more at https://www.marcuscenter.org/series/broadway-marcus-center-2019-2020