RISE & SHINE BROADWAY FANS! It is that time of the year again as we officially start counting down to Broadway's biggest night of the year just 40 DAYS AWAY. We are talking about?. The 73rd Annual Tony Awards (live from Radio City Music Hall on June 9th, 2019 on CBS). Along with the nominations being announced today, we at New York Broadway Tours are once again proud to present some of our favorite Broadway toe-tapping performances from previous telecasts on our TOP 40 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. We'll be playing you the best standout performances plus share with you some history about the show. Are you ready?!!! HERE WE GO!!!
At # 40 on our countdown, we travel back in time to the year 1862 to the expanding and exotic country of Siam (now today known as Thailand). There, we meet a widowed British school teacher who has been hired to educate the royal children under the watchful eye of a strict royal king (as part of the drive to modernize his country). This is the iconic classic…. The King and I the Musical. The show features a score and book by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (a.k.a Rodgers & Hammerstein) and is based on Margret London?s best selling 1944 novella ANNA & THE KING OF SIAM (which was derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam).
From the 1971 telecast (featuring many of Broadway's best recreating their iconic performances for one night in celebration of the Tony's 25th Anniversary), the legendary and late talents of Tony Award winner Yul Brynner as "The King" and Patricia Morrison as "Anna Leonowens" perform one of the show's beloved signature songs SHALL WE DANCE.
THE KING AND I was first conceived in the late 1940?s.. Following their success of hit musicals including Oklahoma and Carousel, Rodgers & Hammerstein were tapped to write a musical adaptation of Margaret London?s best selling 1944 novella ANNA & THE KING OF SIAM as a comeback performance for actress Gertrude Lawrence. Originally at first, they refused the offer due to the dislike of the novella and believing that the music would not flow with the story. However, their world changed when they saw the 1946 film adaptation of the story (that starred Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison). They were also very uncomfortable for writing specifically for a big-star vehicle .In their previous musicals, Rodgers & Hammerstein were made stars out of their actors instead of hiring them. Engaging the legendary Gertrude Lawrence would be the most expensive thing they would ever do and were super worried about her voice being diminishing with the years, while her tendency to sing flat was increasing. Lawrence was also a very temperamental diva. Along with Lawrence, Oscar Hammerstein II was also inspired in creating the musical when reading a part of Landon?s novel featuring a slave in Siam writing about President Abraham Lincoln. That would eventually become the inspiration to creating the narrative ballet adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe?s UNCLE TOM?S CABIN (which was staged by Jerome Robbins). Since a frank expression of romantic feelings between ?The King? and ?Anna Leonowens? would be inappropriate in view of both parties' upbringing and prevailing social mores, Hammerstein incorporated a secondary storyline centering on the forbidden romance between the young slave girl ?Tuptim? and the scholar ? Lun Tha?.
The show made its Broadway Debut in 1950 at the St. James Theatre running for 1,246 performances. Under the direction of John Van Druten and Choreography by Jerome Robbins, the cast starred?
Yul Brynner in his record breaking and signature role as ?The King?
Dorothy Sarnoff (later Terry Saunders) as ?Lady Thiang?,
Doretta Morrow (later Stephanie Augustine) as ?Tuptim? ,
Larry Douglas (later Joseph Caruso) as ?Lun Tha?,
and John Juliano as ?The Kralahome?.
The original production earned rave reviews and took home all 5 of its Tony Award nominees in 1952 including Best Musical, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Lawrence) and Best Leading Actor in a Musical (for Brynner).
With the success of THE KING AND I on Broadway, the show went onto become a worldwide smash hit including London?s West End, on Tour across America, Australia, Japan, and Europe. However, the show was a flop believe it or not was in Thailand. After its premiere, the Musical was banned from there.. In Thailand, anything disrespectful of a monarchy was illegal.
THE KING AND I would later revived 4 times Broadway. In celebration of its 25th Anniversary of its Broadway debut, the show embarked on a National Tour featuring Yul Brynner reprising his performance in 1977. With the touring being a sold out smash, the show made its way back to Broadway. Under the direction of Yuriko (who previously appeared in the original production as a dancer filling in for John Van Druten) and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the first revival cast starred?.
Yul Brynner (later Michael Kermoyan) as ?The King?,
Hye-Young Choi as ?Lady Thiang?,
June Angela as ?Tuptim?,
Martin Vidnovic as ?Lun Tha?,
and Michael Kermoyan (later Jae Woo Lee) as ?The Kralahome?.
The 1977 revival did not receive any Tony Award nominations or wins that year.
When the 1977 revival closed, it traveled to London's West End and then eventually went back on the road touring North America for several years. During those engagements, Brynner continued playing the "The King". During a tour stop in LA in 1983, Yul Bynner experienced a very bittersweet day. On the same day of his 4,000th milestone performance in the role, Brynner found out he was diagnosed with liver cancer. The tour was shut down for several months as he went through intense radiation therapy. As the show resumed its tour, it was renamed for Yul Bynner his FAREWELL TOUR.
In 1985, Yul Brynner's Farewell Tour for THE KING AND I wrapped up and officially returned to on Broadway. This revival played the Broadway Theatre for 207 performances. It featured Mitch Leigh directing the show with the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography. When Brynner took his final bow, he played a complete total of 4, 625 performances as ?The King of Siam? ETECETRA, ETCETARA, ETCETARA!!! He passed away 4 months later after his final show.
The cast included…
Mary-beth Peil as "Anna Leonowens",
Yul Brynner as "The King",
Irma-Estel Laguerre as "Lady Thiang",
Patricia Welch as "Tuptim",
Sal Provenza as "Lun Tha",
and Jonathan Farwell as "The Kralahome".
The revival was nominated for 2 Tony Awards that year for Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Mary Beth Peil) and Best Direction of a Musical (for Mitch Leigh) losing both its categories. However, a special Tony Award was given out to Yul Brynner in honor of his record breaking performance.
Following Brynner?s passing, the show continued to tour and play around the world.
THE KING AND I officially returned to Broadway in 1995. It became the first major production to not replicate the original staging. This production was based off an acclaimed production that played Australia in 1991. It was directed by Christopher Renshaw and choreographed both Jerome Robbins and Law Lubovitch. The vision of the new Renshaw staging was to reshape the show with ?An Authentic Thai Experience? with a more sinister Siamese setting. Several dialogue and song lyrics were cut. This production played Broadway?s Neil Simon Theatre running for 807 performances total. The cast included?.
Lou Diamond Phillips (later the late Kevin Gray) as ?The King?,
Taewon Kim as ?Lady Thiang?,
Joohee Toi as ?Tuptim?,
Jose Ilana as ?Lun Tha?,
and Randall Duk Kim (later Erick Avari) as ?The Kralahome?.
The production was nominated for 8 Tonys in 1996 winning 4 including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Donna Murphy).
The most recent Broadway revival of THE KING AND I happened in 2015.
The production played the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center Theater for 538 performances. Under the direction of Barlette Sheer and choreographed by Tony winner Christopher Gattelli (recreating the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography), the cast featured?.
Ruthie Ann Miles as ?Lady Thiang?,
Ashley Park as ?Tuptim?,
Conrad Ricamora as ?Lun Tha?,
And Paul Nakauchi as ?The Kralahome?.
The recent revival was nominated for 9 Tony Awards that year winning 4 including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Kelli O?Hara – her long awaited win), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (for Ruthie Ann Miles). A Non-Equity production of the acclaimed revival is still touring.
Today, the musical is performed in schools, community, and regional theaters everywhere.
Along with its success on the stage, THE KING AND I has been captured on film 3 times. The original film was released from 20th Century Fox in 1956 becoming an instant smash. In addition, it also had 3 of the main roles having voice dubs to the principal actors. Under the direction of Walter Lang, a screenplay adapted by Ernest Lehman, and the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography, the film starred?.
Deborah Kerr (with Marni Nixon?s singing voice) as ?Anna Leonowens?,
Yul Brynner reprising the role he brought to life on stage as ?The King?,
Terry Saunders as ?Lady Thiang?,
Rita Moreno (with Leona Gordon?s singing voice) as ?Tuptim?,
Carlos Rivas (with Ruben Fuentes? singing voice) as ?Lun Tha?,
and Martin Benson as ?The Kralahome?.
The 1956 film went on to be nominated for 9 Academy Awards winning 4 including Best Actor (for Yul Brynner). With Brynner?s win, he made Broadway history as one of the only few to ever win both the Tony Award and the Oscar for the same role.
In 1999, Warner Bros. Pictures released an Animated film adaptation of the musical. The biggest change for the film was making it very family-friendly for children. Several songs from the stage version was cut and changes were updated to the storyline (which included cutting the role of ?Lady Thiang? and ?Lun Tha? (being replaced by the King?s eldest son ?Prince Chualalongkorn? as the love interest). In addition, the role of ?The Kralahome? as changed into becoming the main villain with his very own sidekick named ?Master Little?. It also featured several roles being voice dubbed to the principal actors. Under the direction of Richard Rich and a screenplay by Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler, the voice over cast included?.
Martin Vidnovic as ?The King?,
Armi Arabe (with Tracy Venner Warren?s singing voice) as ?Tuptim?,
Allen D. Hong (with David Burnham?s singing voice?) as ?Prince Chualalongkorn?,
Ian Richardson as ?The Kralahome?,
and Darrell Hammond as ?Master Little?
The Animated film was a huge flop receiving negative reviews and was a huge box office bomb.
The most recently film version of THE KING AND I was released this past Fall 2018. This version was a filmed performance of the London Company of the recent 2015 Lincoln Center Theatre revival. From the stage of the London Palladium, it was released for one night only in Movie Theaters for one night only and now available on BroadwayHD. The cast included?.
Kelli O?Hara reprising her Tony winning performance as ?Anna Leonowens?,
Ken Watanabe reprising his Tony nominated performance of ?The King?,
Ruthie Ann Miles reprising her Tony winning performance of ?Lady Thiang? which she marked as an emotional stage comeback following the tragic car accident that injured her and killed her 4 year old daughter a year ago,
Na-Young Jeon as ?Tuptim?,
Dean John-Wilson as ?Lun Tha?,
and Takao Osawa as ?The Kralahome?.
Isn't this show a timeless classic?