- Helena Oliviero The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most splendid works, “The King and I,” comes to the Fox Theatre Tuesday.
This will mark the first time the revival of the 1951 classic will perform at the Fox Theatre, and the elegant, grand-scale production will play at the Fox from Tuesday, Sept. 26, through Oct. 1.
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher brought to Siam to teach the king’s many wives and children. Jose Llana, who plays the lead role of the King of Siam after starring in the Broadway production, believes the show, with themes about people from different countries and backgrounds coming together and finding friendship, carries particular resonance today.
“The King and I” won four Tony Awards, including best revival of a musical. Hailed as “first-rate, sumptuous” (The New York Times) and “too beautiful to miss” (New York Magazine), the production played 538 performances on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
The musical presents a score featuring beloved classics including “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” and “Shall We Dance.”
“Jose was so superb on Broadway in ‘The King and I’ that I begged him to join us on the tour and l feel we are incredibly lucky to have him. He brings such joy and virility and strength to the King. And he is one of Broadway’s great talents,” said director Bartlett Sher in a press release.
The AJC recently interviewed Llana by phone about the show.
A: “The King and I” was written many, many decades ago, but it is still so relevant today. It’s a story about a world leader really trying to find the best way for his country to survive in a world of colonization. And I think that was Bartlett’s original inspiration to go back to the original text and really bring out the politics of this. What struck with me with this revival and what was so different from the last couple revivals is being really aware of the politics and what is happening in the world. I think in today’s politics, how divisive the government is right now, it is a really refreshing thing to tell the story about a world leader who extends a hand of friendship to someone from another country, and by the end of the show, they become really good friends.
A: The best part of my job is every night I look into the audience and I usually see three generations of people. I see the grandparents who are seeing maybe their second or third “King and I.” I see the parents who bought the tickets who are maybe seeing their second “King and I” and the kids, which is the best part is that we have this distinct honor of being their first “King and I.”
A: The best thing that can happen is the three generations go home and they talk about the story, and they talk about two different people — the king and Anna, who look very different from each other and have different backgrounds and come from different countries and at the beginning of the story, they look like they hate each other and fear they can’t find anything in common and by the end of the story, they become very good friends. I think that is a lesson you can teach to anybody, and that is why as a family musical, this show has kept strong for the past 60 years.