The Production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is Royal

Written By Scott Rigtrup, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

Photography courtesy of Matthew Murphy.

On Tuesday, December 12, Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts opened its 2017 – 2018 season with a proverbial bang with their presentation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I”.

The cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.

The cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.

Opening night was truly a step back in time and a journey to a far off land.  The setting was Siam. The time was long before the modern day Thailand might ever have been imagined.  These were the times of pomp and pageantry.  These were the times of deep seated traditions and customs that were brought to bear upon the savy English widow Anna Leonowens, the “school teacher”, and her young son Louis as Anna enters the employ of the King of Siam.

Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.

Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.

The feeling of joy felt throughout the audience was palpable as the Bass Concert Hall filled with the classic and familiar tune “I Whistle a Happy Tune” as Anna and Louis stepped off the boat with great trepidation and on to their new homeland.  Equally enthralling was watching Anna being introduced to the numerous royal wives and even more numerous royal children while singing “Getting to Know You” in the royal court.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.

Inevitably, amidst this newly forged arrangement, tensions arise as Anna must delicately, yet firmly, navigate a foreign society and a royal household known for great civility and even greater incivility.  These tensions come more acutely to light as we learn of the king’s personal struggles of being in absolute barbaric power before his subjects while privately and quite humbly, at times, questioning the very nature of the expansive world surrounding him.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.

Not surprisingly, the bullying egocentric attitude of the king and Anna’s proud obstinate disposition make the plot ripe for confrontation both petty and literally deadly.  Yet, sweet undertones of admiration and respect for one another develop amidst their strife, and devotion flourishes as these unlikely companions become the greatest of allies.  As the final curtain fell, it was hard not to feel a great sense hope of being able to come together as one people.  For surely, if the barbarian king and the proper English lady can do it, then so can we.

Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts

The Lincoln Center Theatre Production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I

December 12 – 17, 2017

Tuesday – Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. & 7 p.m.

Bass Concert Hall | 2350 Robert Dedman Drive | Austin, TX 78712

Start at $30.Tickets are available at BroadwayinAustin.com, texasperformingarts.org, the Bass Concert Hall ticket office, all Texas Box Office Outlets, by phone at (512) 477-6060.  For groups of 10 or more, call (877) 275-3804 or email Austin.groups@broadwayacrossamerica.com

Something Rotten! is an Absolute Thrill Ride of Entertainment!

Written by Scott Rigtrup, Entertainment Correspondent for InFluential Magazine 

The completely original new musical Something Rotten! directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin), with music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Wayne Kirkpatrick and Golden Globe Award and Tony Award nominee Karey Kirkpatrick and a book by Tony Award nominees Karey Kirkpatrick and best-selling author John O’Farrell, opened at the Bass Concert Hall, May 30 – June 4, 2017.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

I attended Opening Night of this hilarious Broadway hit.  The range of music, dialogue, humor and eras spanned from the Renaissance to modern-day and left me feeling dizzy with glee, like a child stumbling off a roller coaster ride, laughing uncontrollably, while racing to back in line for another go-round!

From L: Rob McClure, Adam Pascal and the cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

From L: Rob McClure, Adam Pascal and the cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

Irreverent, only begins to describe the follies that ensue as the aspiring playwrights, Nick and Nigel Bottom, desperately pit themselves against Shakespeare, their arch rival, in creating the next big theatrical hit of the era.  Needless to say, the most unimaginable plots of love, lust, spying, deceit and rivalry spill onto the stage as an incredibly unwitting soothsayer foretells to Nick Bottom the future of theater performances, being full of song, dance and acting, all at the same time.  This, in turn, using the term loosely, “inspires” the confounded Bottom brothers to create the first Musical ever!

Autumn Hurlbert and Josh Grisetti. © Jeremy Daniel.

Autumn Hurlbert and Josh Grisetti. © Jeremy Daniel.

As I sat myself for this performance, I buckled up and expected nothing less than the most comically disorienting re-write of theatrical history known as of yet to man . . . and attendees had to keep arms and hands inside for the ride at all times!

From L: Rob McClure and Jeff Brooks. © Jeremy Daniel.

From L: Rob McClure and Jeff Brooks. © Jeremy Daniel.

The New York production opened in April 2015 on Broadway and continues performances at the St. James Theatre through January 1, 2017. Three of the current Broadway principals will be reprising their roles on tour: Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, Adam Pascal as Shakespeare and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. © Jeremy Daniel.

The award-winning design team of Broadway veterans includes Scott Pask (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), Peter Hylenski (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), Phil Reno (music direction / conductor), Glen Kelly (arrangements), Larry Hochman (orchestrations) and casting by Telsey + Company/Bethany Knox, CSA.

Something Rotten! is an absolute thrill ride of entertainment!

Stay up-to-date with what’s going at Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, Austin, TX by visiting www.texasperformingarts.org.