Getting to Know You: “The King and I” Inspires and Delights at the Times-Union Center November 13-18

Getting to Know You: “The King and I” Inspires and Delights at the Times-Union Center November 13-18

Energetic, engaging, and entertaining from the overture through the reprise, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I opened Tuesday, November 13 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville. Offering a riveting and visually enthralling adventure, The King and I triumphantly inspires and delights young and old alike. The show runs from November 13-18, 2018.

tue13nov(nov 13)7:30 pmsun18(nov 18)10:00 pmFeaturedRodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and IBroadway in Jacksonville7:30 pm – 10:00 pm (18) Times Union Center for the Performing Arts, Moran Theatre

Based on the 1944 semi-biographical novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, The King and I is a familiar story that has appeared on the big screen numerous times over the decades. For many, the 1999 adaptation Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster and Yun-Fat Chow likely served as their first introduction to the tale of Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam. Rodger & Hammerstein’s The King and I will be recognizable to film fans, though it presents the timeless tale in a powerful and unique manner only live theater can accomplish.  

Anna in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Jeremy Daniel, “The King & I” is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The year is 1862. Anna Leonowens (played by Angela Baumgardner) is a strong-willed British schoolteacher and a widow who comes to Bangkok at the request of the King of Siam (played by Pedro Ka ‘Awaloa) to educate his many children. She’s part of his bold plan to modernize his nation.

Read interview with Angela Baumgardner here: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘The King & I’: A Treasured Heirloom Comes to Jacksonville Nov. 13-18

Anna finds herself in a world completely unlike her own in this East vs. West drama, yet she refuses to be intimidated by the king and his representatives. When her contract is violated, she does not relent in demanding rectification. The British schoolteacher quickly comes to adore the Siamese princes and princesses in her care. Yet cultural differences, the King’s ego-centric and macho personality, and the demeaning treatment of Siamese women prevent Anna from getting too comfortable.

Through her consistent kindness and perseverance, Anna and the King begin to respect and understand one another. Despite their differences, an unlikely friendship blooms. When she learns the British plan to take over Siam as a protectorate and that the King is portrayed as barbaric in the West, she’s outraged and helps him entertain the British envoy and prove to the world that the King, despite his flaws, is a leader deserving their respect. Anna witnesses true growth in the King of Siam. Drama and differences ensue, but in the end true progress is made and the future of Siam looks to be brighter and more accepting.

The King of Siam and Anna Leonowens in Rodgers & Hammerstein's King and I. Photo by Jeremy Daniel, “The King & I” is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical adaptation of The King and I was born when Gertrude Lawrence, who wanted to play the leading role, brought Landon’s novel to their attention in the 1940s. Both Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s wives wanted to see the book brought to life on stage as well. When the gentlemen saw a screening of the 1946 film adaptation, they finally came around to the idea. There was certainly plenty to write about—Eastern vs. Western civilization, female vs. male dynamics, despotism vs. democracy, and so much more. The King and I became the most expensive Rodgers & Hammerstein production to date, debuting on Broadway on March 29, 1951.

This classic Broadway musical has enjoyed a revival recently, transporting a new generation of theatergoers to 1860s Siam. The FSCJ Artist Series musical production masterfully does just that. While at times uncomfortable in an age of political correctness, theatergoers find themselves in a riveting and decidedly foreign world of colonialism and the Orient. The sets, costumes, lighting, and sound captivate the imagination and draw theatergoers into this magical, mystical world so foreign from our own.  Familiar songs like “Getting to Know You, “Shall We Dance,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Whistle a Happy Tune” delight the audience and inspire rousing applause. Producing a well-known Broadway favorite for a modern audience was a monumental task, yet Restaging Director Shelley Butler succeeded beautifully at the Times-Union Center in this breathtaking Broadway musical based on the 2015 Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center Theater production.   

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I , FSCJ Artist Series, Jennifer Melville

We attended the 17th Annual Family Night on Broadway at the Opening Night of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I and the atmosphere was instantly engaging. Events such as these encourage the entire family to come out and enjoy fine theater close to home. We arrived an hour before show time to participate in a variety of kid-friendly activities. The children learned the difference between horns and antlers at the Jacksonville Zoo table, decorated an elephant with MOSH, crafted floating candles at the Jax4Kids booth, made noisy kazoos at the Jacksonville Science Festival table, and thoroughly enjoyed the Green Screen Photo Shoot sponsored by PRI. If you have kids or grandchildren of any age and want to take them to a Broadway musical, I absolutely recommend attending Family Night for any FSCJ Artist Series Broadway in Jacksonville production. We thoroughly enjoyed the festivities and my young theatergoers remained gainfully occupied in the antsy time before the performance began.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I , FSCJ Artist Series, Jennifer Melville
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I , FSCJ Artist Series, Jennifer Melville

The children were instantly captivated as a ship sailed into Bangkok through the mist at the musical’s opening and they found the princes and princesses of Siam to be the best part of the production. I was worried that themes like colonialism, polygamy, and period-accurate degradation of women would be too heavy for them, but the musical was so tastefully arranged and the unconventional heroine so charmingly portrayed and empowering that we enjoyed the production from beginning to end. The experience sparked later discussions about history, social roles, and other challenging concepts. Fine art inspires and challenges the viewer; that’s part of its power.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I , FSCJ Artist Series, Jennifer Melville

My young teen walked away with a new passion for a story she previously disliked.  My younger theatergoers (ages 10 and 8) enjoyed the dancers very much, though they were quite wiggly and restless by intermission. It’s a long night indeed. The show started at 7:30 PM and wrapped up with a rousing ovation around 10 pm.   Based on content, length, and weeknight performance time, I would recommend this production for ages 10 and up. Of course, there will always be exceptions. My younger kids enjoyed it, but my oldest got more out of the experience and did not spend the second half wiggling in her seat or yawning dramatically. As a musical theater fan, I personally enjoyed every second. The pitch-perfect musical score made my heart sing and I found the stage crafting absolutely breathtaking.

Two vastly different worlds collide in amusing, at-times shocking, and captivating ways in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.  There’s something for everyone. If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll appreciate how beautifully it’s brought to life here in Jacksonville and the music will tempt you to sing along. If you’ve never seen it before, prepare for an experience you’ll never forget. Whether attending as a family, with friends, on a date, or as a solitary Broadway enthusiast, The King and I at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class experience simply too beautiful to miss.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/11/14/the-king-and-i-times-union-center/


Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘The King & I’: A Treasured Heirloom Comes to Jacksonville

Like many beloved Broadway musicals, the story of “The King & I” has traveled through decades and across oceans like a treasured heirloom passed down from generation to generation. Based on the true story of Anna Leonowens in 1860’s Bangkok, its carries with it the truths of the cultures reflected in this extraordinary telling.

“The King & I” is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway in Jacksonville November 13th-18th in the Times-Union Center’s Moran Theater (www.artistseriesjax.com). The musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British school teacher whom the modernist King brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children. Considered one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, The King & I boasts a score of such classics as ‘Getting To Know You,’ ‘I Whistle a Happy Tune,’ ‘Hello Young Lovers,’ ‘Shall We Dance’ and ‘Something Wonderful.’

Angela Baumgardner was familiar with story long before she auditioned for the role of Anna. As a child, she’d traced her fingers along its intricate details and dreamed of its exotic beauty. She didn’t know how or even why, but she felt that she was destined to one day experience that magic as her own.

“It’s such an iconic role. The beauty of it is that I’ve gotten to see this production, the 2015 Tony Award-winning production from Lincoln Center, so I was already captured by this particular interpretation. For me, any acting piece that I do, I look at what parts of her character resonate with me. Even since 2015, there have been several different Annas, and everyone is different because every person is different. For me, the biggest thing that stands out is her strength. I don’t think there is a weak bone in her body, except maybe for the children, and I can totally relate to that as well.”

“[During] her struggle in Siam and with all that is going on, she is strong in her beliefs and her principles. There are moments that she just wants to leave, but it’s for the sake of the children that she always stays. There was a point in my life, too, when I just had this revelation that everything we do is all about the next generation, and I see that in Anna. She has a sense of destiny and a sense of purpose, even in going to Siam, even in accepting the King’s offer. And what she is able to do there is invest in and impact the next generation, specifically the next King. She’s given this great offering, and I think that’s what captured me even in the rehearsal process with the children and the young prince, soon-to-be king.”

The masterful score by Rodgers & Hammerstein sets the tone of the course and brings the audiences along for the journey which exists in a space all its own. As in most of the productions scored by the brilliant team, there is a political undercurrent that runs alongside stories of forbidden love, differences in class and clashes in culture.

The King of Siam and Anna Leonowens in Rodgers & Hammerstein's King and I. Photo by Jeremy Daniel, “The King & I” is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

“There’s a challenge that every couple is facing, and there’s always a political thing as well. In “Cinderella,” yes, it’s a class difference, and the prince that will become a king. In “The Sound of Music,” it’s set against the backdrop of a Nazi invasion. In Siam, it’s the clash of cultures and Anna trying to exert herself as an equal, but there is no equal to the king. He is worshiped as a god.  I grew up on Rodgers and Hammerstein. I’m from Oklahoma, so every child performed in Oklahoma. We’re one of the ony states with a musical written about us. I’ve grown up with all these stories and loved all the stories since I was a child. What I loved about the relationships is they are so multi-dimensional. There’s an attraction, but there’s the high stakes of who she is and who he is. In “The King & I,” it’s an intellectual attraction and respect and admiration.”

The chemistry between actors is important in order to deliver an authentic performance and be believable in the portrayal of the characters. The connection between Anna and the King exists in the restraint of propriety and the electricity charged by an underlying sexual tension rippling beneath the surface – in a family friendly way, of course.

Before she’d won the role, before she’d even auditioned, Baumgardner met the future prince outside the backstage door of the iconic Lincoln Center where “The King & I” captivated audiences with its Tony Award-winning run. Pedro Ka’ Awaloa was auditioning for the part of the future King and the two entered together as a pair of young hopefuls with a destiny to fulfill.

Anna in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Jeremy Daniel, “The King & I” is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series Broadway
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

“With any actor you play against, you have to like them. During my audition process, there was only one being that I ever auditioned with, and that was Pedro. Our audition was actually at Lincoln Center, which never happens. You’re always auditioning at some studio or rehearsal space. For both us, I’d never been inside Lincoln Center backstage, so just to be there was incredible. We first met outside the backstage door, and we shared this moment together walking in, and they took us into this rehearsal hall, and said ‘ok, you two are going to read together.’ So already there was this excitement and energy, and it worked right away,” says Baumgardner.

“We had a great first introduction, and were able to build off that during the rehearsal process. And seeing each other grow in the role has just taken it to another level. The audience sees the finished product, but we’re investing hours in every scene and every nuance. It’s been a treat to see how our performances together, and our reactions and chemistry and tensions together, grow every time we go back to the scene. It thrills me to know what the audience is going to get to experience based on the time we’ve put in together.”

Remembering that little girl in Oklahoma, Baumgardner relishes the time on stage with her youngest castmates. She imagines the experience through their young eyes and the memories they will carry on through their lives. It’s the same feeling she gets when she catches the moment the music strikes a chord with a young audience member. She remembers that spark and is grateful for the opportunity to not only share this amazing journey but to ignite the passion for storytelling and music.

“For them to write this musical in the 50’s, and for it to still have such an impact today is incredible. It is a gift to share this with the next generation, just as I learned it when I was a kid. It’s a timeless story and a show that has something for everyone.”

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/11/08/rodgers-hammersteins-the-king-i/


Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0