ICCT - Iowa City Community Theatre invites audiences to be swept away by the music and pageantry of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical The King and I. It runs from September 12 through the 14th at the Englert Theater. Friday and Saturday evening performances start at 7:30pm, while Saturday and Sunday matinees start at 2pm.
Based on a true story, the musical chronicles the adventures of intrepid Englishwoman Anna Leonowens, as she is summoned by the exotic and mercurial King of Siam to tutor his many wives and children. East meets West and cultures clash, as the King and the schoolteacher get to know and eventually respect, if not necessarily understand, each other. The production is punctuated by a number of familiar Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, including "I Whistle A Happy Tune," "Hello Young Lovers," "Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance."
The production is directed by Barbara Buddin, with choreography by Mark McCusker and a twenty-nine piece orchestra conducted by Ed Kottick. The cast includes a number of performers familiar to ICCT audiences, as well as a number of other area performers making their debut with ICCT.
The cast: Bentlee Birchansky (Louis), Frank Frisch (Captain Orton), Teresa Wagner (Anna), Rex VanDorpe (The Interpreter), Ken Van Egdon (The Kralahome), Josh Sazon (The King), Steve Fortmann (Lun Tha), Conor Henry (Prince Chululongkorn), Heather Lawler (Tuptim), Megan O'Brien (Lady Thiang), Lael Stander (Sir Edward)
Barbra Buddin, the director of the show answered a few questions for me via email. We did ask a couple more questions, most notably about the music of the show, but did not receive answers.
The King and I is one of the classic musicals of American theatre. Are you doing anything different with your production or going the traditional route?
Barbara: I have changed the Ballet to a puppet theater. I have taken some risks in the interpretation of several of the scenes. Due to a lack of space, I have eliminated several of the set changes.
Teresa Wagner plays Anna. What else has she done in the area? What has her interpretation of the character been like?
Barbara: Teresa was Eliza Doolittle in our production of My Fair Lady. Michael Stokes directed that one.
What was the most challenging aspect of this production?
Barbara: We lost two weeks of production time due to a Women's Boxing Tournament that was held in our rented space after our lease took effect. I couldn't get to our props and lumber in time to create an elaborate set.
The Englert is a beautiful space, but it does have limitations such as small offstage areas. With a full scale musical like this, how did you compensate for that?
Barbara: We will not have tabs for masking the wings. Many of the props can store smaller props inside. The cast will move pieces to cut down the number of non-essential people backstage
The cast list I have does not include any kids. Aren't there usually a number of children in this show? If so, what is the age range of the kids and how has that worked out working with the kids?
Barbara: There are 31 children in the show from 3 months to high school senior. To keep the children safe and prepared we have a full staff of kid wranglers.
Can you talk a little bit about the technical aspects of the show - set, lighting, sound?
Barbara: There are technical issues to deal with this week in terms of sound effects, the fireworks being projected, and the set being hung properly.
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