The smash hit Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is heading to Edinburgh

“The King and I” 1956 movie (Deborah Kerr & Yul Brynner)

For lovers of the glamorous and richly romantic show, “The King and I”, you would be mistaken to think that Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the book and lyrics, created the storyline.

In fact, it’s a true story, based on Margaret Landon’s semi-fictionalised novel, “Anna and the King of Siam”, (1944), inspired by the real life memoirs of a British school teacher. In 1862, Anna Leonowens arrived at the Royal Palace Bangkok to be the tutor to King Mongkut’s 39 wives and 82 children, her experience related in “The English Governess at the Siamese Court.”Premiered on Broadway in March 1951, “The King and I” ran for three years, winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. The latest revival of this smash hit show at the Lincoln Center Theater, New York, has recently had a sell out season in London and is now coming to the Edinburgh Playhouse, from 17th to 26th October, 2019.

Leading a company of 50 performers and a full scale orchestra are Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as The King.

There was a sneak media preview this week, at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian in the luxurious Castle Suite, garlanded with flowers.  Annalene and Jose describe their roles and story of this lavishly staged production, which won four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.

Jose Llana and Annalene Beechey at the media launch  – “Shall We Dance?”

This classic, heart-warming narrative, while set in the 1860s, is still so relevant to audiences today relating the story of an unlikely friendship between two headstrong personalities from very different backgrounds and cultures, where East meets West.

Annalene Beechey and Jose Llana in The King and I

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s enchanting, romantic tale is perfect for families of all ages to enjoy together. Children will be inspired to see young actors of their age, on stage singing and dancing. In fact, following a local audition, sisters Perrie and Nikita Wong, aged 8 and 6, were selected to join the ensemble of Royal Children for the run in Edinburgh.

Anna and the Royal children

Annalene recalls performing in Les Miserables at the Playhouse in 1994 (“I was very young at the time!”, she says with a laugh).  Anna is a dream role for an actress, wearing the most gorgeous dresses with one ball gown weighing three stone. This is the costume for the number, “Shall We Dance,” when Anna and the King perform a polka. Jose Llana is impressed that she can twirl across the stage in this heavy dress, dancing backwards and in heels.

Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as the King

Theatre goers can certainly expect elaborate costumes and an opulent Palace setting, with 22,000 hand made flowers, two miles of fabric and 250 metres of gold leaf.  Eight trucks are required to transport the set from city to city on this UK tour.

Annalene Beechey

We are treated to a few of the familiar songs from the show, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Puzzlement” & “Getting to Know You, “ performed with such clarity of the lyrics and joyful charisma.

Jose Llana

The reviews say it all, from Broadway to the West End – “I doubt I’ll ever see a better production in my lifetime’ said the Wall Street Journal;  “Five stars for a sumptuous “King and I”. Book now. It’s a hit,’ was the verdict of The Times.

So, perhaps this appetising taster of the show has tempted you to book your tickets soon!

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I”

17th to 26th October, 2019 @ 7.30pm (matinees, 2.30pm).

Tickets: £19.50 – £110

The Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Edinburgh EH1 3AA    Tel. 0844 871 3014

[“The King and I” press launch images, Photo credit, Rob McDougall 2019]

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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