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Friday, March 25, 2011

The King and I Opens at Diamond Head

The King and I Opens at Diamond Head

Tricia Marciel (Anna Leonowens), Paolo Montalban (The King of Siam). "Shall We Dance."

Photo: Courtesy Diamond Head Theatre

Greg Zane returns to Diamond Head Theatre this season to direct Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. No stranger to the musical, Zane performed in the 1996 Broadway Revival of the production with Lou Diamond Philips and in the West End Revival in London in 2000. Paolo Montalban, who is best known for his part as the Prince in Disney’s Cinderella, opposite Brandy, and as Kung Lao in TNT’s Mortal Kombat, guest stars as The King of Siam.

It was in the Broadway production of The King and I that Zane met Paolo Montalban, and they have been friends ever since. “I thought of Paolo for the role, because he’s of an age that he should be doing this role. And, I thought it would be fun for Paolo to explore.”

The roles of The King and Anna indeed present many layers for an actor to explore: “These are not small issues,” says Montalban, “ it’s tradition versus change, how the education of children affects a nation, mutual respect and love between a man and a woman, protecting a country from being taken over, Eastern values clashing with Western values. In many ways, it’s the Hamlet for male musical theatre actors of Asian descent.”

Another challenge for Montalban is the memories of Yul Brunner and Lou Diamond Philips who have successfully commanded the role of the King for years. “The challenge lies in imbuing the character with my own essence without adding too much Yul or Lou into the mix.”

One thing in the actors’ favor is that the Diamond Head Theatre production is based upon the 1996 production, and not the original 1950s version, with its exaggerated exoticism—for instance, the Thai language represented as musical sounds. There’s “a lot more respect for the Thai culture,” Zane further explains. “Thai language is spoken, the set design comes from actual pieces that are in the grand palace and it uses Thai motifs and murals.” In this version, Anna is portrayed as the strange and exotic one, as she is the one, after all, who is new to the land.

Though Montalban plays a strong King, Anna (played by Tricia Marciel) steals the show—and, rightfully so. It is called The King and I after all, not The King and Her. “She’s a wonderful actress who can sing, not a singer who can act. So, she can get into the subtext and layers of Anna,” describes Zane. Marciel successfully brings the audience with her on the emotional roller coaster of being a British, widowed, single mother in an Eastern land, with growing, yet conflicting, feelings for the King. It peaks once Anna realizes that she has feelings for a man whose values will never align with her own.

The Green Room

Unusual for stage, The King and I brings a cast of twelve children with varying ages. Zane explains what it is like working with children on set: “For a kid coming to theatre, into an adult world, the kids grow up. They are shy first, but they grow up after.”

2 acts, approx. 3 hours, March 25 through April 17.

Posted on Friday, March 25, 2011 in Permalink

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About This Column

This Kamehameha Schools and UH graduate manages the website for HONOLULU. In her free time she researches Hawaiian genealogy, when she’s not out and about or taking care of her 5-year-old son. She blogs about Honolulu bars, Hawaii nightlife and entertainment.

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