Interlochen Arts Academy
About the Production
I served as the Dramaturg and Assistant Musical Director on The King and I, presented from May 15–16, 2015 in Corson Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
East versus West makes for a dramatic, richly textured and ultimately uplifting tale of enormous fascination. It is 1862 in Siam when an English widow, Anna Leonowens, and her young son arrive at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the King to serve as tutor to his many children and wives. The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by those in the West, and he seeks Anna’s assistance in changing his image, if not his ways. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King grow to understand and, eventually, respect one another, in a truly unique love story.
Program Notes by Yoni Weiss
Thoroughly layered, complex, and spectacular, The King and I captures an epic clash of minds, cultures, and customs. It is a musical with themes and conflicts that continue to resonate presently. Anna and the King’s relationship begins to close the chasm separating men and women, simply through a meeting of minds. Like so many teenagers today, Crown Prince Chulalongkorn must become an adult before he is quite ready, and Anna’s son Louis must quickly adjust to an entirely new life. Anna and Tuptim’s fight for women’s rights and education lives on in the likes of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. The morals and themes of the story continue to ring true throughout the ages. Upon it’s opening on Broadway in 1951, The King and I challenged the theatrical conventions of the time, employing a story featuring a strong female lead with no proclaimed male love interest, surprising audiences everywhere. Through the gorgeous designs and inspiring, opulent score, The King and I showcased a vibrant culture, as well as many social issues which led to its huge success in a world that did not yet fully understand the significance of the story. In its purest form, The King and I is perhaps the most intrinsic of love stories. It revolves around a love of self, heritage, family, and country, and perhaps most importantly, love for another. However, this love story does not have the fairytale ending that audiences of the time expected, which further distinguishes this show from other musicals of its time. This was the first of many times Rodgers and Hammerstein would break the mold that they themselves created. While Rodgers and Hammerstein, Margaret Landon, and the real-life Anna Leonowens may have each taken their own liberties with the source material, the morals and themes still ring true, and we are profoundly honored to present this enchanting, magnificent musical.