Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I Researched and prepared by Dennis Elliott Photograph by Joan Marcus
Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I was the fifth in a line of extraordinarily successful musicals written by the famous theatrical duo, the others being: Oklahoma 1943, Carousel 1945, State Fair 1945 and South Pacific 1949. The musical is based on a novel by the American author Margaret Landon titled Anna and the King of Siam. Landon's novel itself was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, an educator, travel writer and womens rights activist who served as a teacher to the wives and children of King Rama IV of Siam (known in the West as King Mongkut) for a period of almost six years from 1862 - 1868. Richard Rodgers
Fanny Holtzmann business manager and attorney for the great British actress Gertrude Lawrence had read Margaret Landons novel and realised that a musical based on Anna and the King of Siam might prove to be a very useful vehicle with which to revive the fading career of her very famous client. Lawrence purchased the rights to adapt Landons book as a musical and Holtzmann immediately set about finding a suitable composer for the score. Cole Porter, her first choice, declined the offer and Noël Coward was considered but never approached. While in Manhattan one day Holtzmann fortuitously happened to meet Dorothy Hammerstein, Oscar Hammersteins wife. Oscar Hammerstein II
Holtzmann told her that she would love to have Rodgers and Hammerstein create the show. The famous duo were already well- acquainted with the novel and regarded it poorly as a vehicle for a successful Broadway musical. Both Rodgers and Hammerstein were concerned that the proposed star of the show, Gertrude Lawrence, would prove too expensive to engage, was temperamental and possessed a voice that had clearly seen better days. Despite these misgivings, they had great respect for her acting abilities and agreed to write the show. But Landons book had shortcomings. Changes would have to be made....and were! Gertrude Lawrence as Anna
A key element in all Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals is romance: boy meets girl. In Oklahoma Curly meets Laurey, in Carousel Julie meets Billy and in South Pacific Nellie meets Emile. It is the love relationship between these characters that complicates the story and drives the plot forward. Landons book provided scant material for romance. The King and Anna, the two lead characters, would normally be expected to express their love for each other at some stage in the show but coming from different social and cultural backgrounds, and taking into consideration the social mores of the time, theirs would have to be a love that was unspoken. The real King Mongkut The real Anna Leonowens
To counteract this shortcoming Hammerstein created love scenes for a secondary couple: Tuptim, one of the Kings junior wives, and Lun Tha, a Burmese envoy. Secondary love interests are not uncommon in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. In Oklahoma we find Ado-Annie and Will Parker; in Carousel we meet Carrie and Mr.Snow. Both couples are comic foils to the principal love story. But in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I the relationship between Tuptim and Lun Tha is the principal love story, and it is anything but comic. Hammerstein realised that, through this relationship, he could explore other issues such as slavery, the abuse of power and forbidden love to the plots great advantage. Given the emerging limitations of Gertrude Lawrences aging singing voice, the Tuptim and Lun Tha characters provided Rodgers with the opportunity to compose melodies which were more expressively romantic and melodic. Another major change from the book was to have the King die at the end of the show. The King is, in fact, a more sympathetic character in the musical than in the book. The musical omits the torture and burning at the stake of the two young lovers. In a symbolic representation of the loss of his power, the King, having taken up the lash to punish Tuptim for her forbidden love of Lun Tha, is unable to use it when shamed by the horrified gaze of Anna.
Suddenly Lucky, a song cut from South Pacific, was given new lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and became Getting to Know You in Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I !
Richard Rodgers was, for a period of time, unable to work on the score because of severe back pain. Hammerstein, on the other hand, got down to work almost immediately. In the middle of 1950 he wrote the first scene of the show before leaving for London to see a West End production of their other hit show, Carousel. The second scene was written while in London. Most of the book of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I had been completed before Rodgers had had a chance to set all but a handful of the shows songs. Rodgers and Hammerstein
A set designer, Jo Mielziner, a costume designer, Irene Sharaff, a producer, Leland Hayward and a choreographer, Jerome Robbins were all engaged. Robert Russell Bennett was to orchestrate Rodgers music and Trude Rittmann, pianist, musical director and film-score composer was asked to arrange the music for the ballet sequence, The Small House of Uncle Thomas in Act 2. Jo Mielziner at work. Image from Mary Hendersons: Mielziner: Master of Modern Stage Design
At the time of its first performance, Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I was the most expensive production they had ever mounted.
None of the children cast for the first performance of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I were Thai!
The King! The first choice for the role of King was Rex Harrison who had already played the role in the 1946 film. Noël Coward was unavailable and Alfred Drake, the first Curly in Oklahoma, made so many demands in his contract that he virtually disqualified himself from any chance of getting the role. It was Mary Martin, the original Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, who came to the rescue. She suggested that a Russian-American by the name of Yul Brynner audition for the role. Brynner was already a successful television director and expressed a reluctance to return to the stage. However, after reading Hammersteins script he relented and auditioned for the role. Rex Harrison
Yul Brynner, the first King in Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I, performed the role 4,625 during his career! It is estimated that 8 million people saw him perform the King in live performances!
Anna From the very beginning Rodgers and Hammerstein had their doubts about whether or not Gertrude Lawrence was suitable for the role of Anna. In an act that could almost be regarded as inflammatory, Rodgers had the first Tuptim, Doretta Morrow, sing the entire score to Lawrence who, to her credit, listened calmly. The very next day Rodgers was given an icy reception, Lawrence feeling that the composers actions were aimed at highlighting her perceived vocal deficiencies. Any doubts Rodgers and Hammerstein had about her suitability for the role were quickly laid to rest by the sheer force of her acting and her imposing presence on stage. Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner Shall we Dance
The dresses worn by Gertrude Lawrence in the role of Anna weighed as much as 34 kilograms!
Minor Roles The first Lady Thiang, the Kings chief wife was Dorothy Sarnoff, an American operatic soprano and music theatre actress. Doretta Morrow an American dancer, singer and actress played the first Tuptim. The male roles were allocated as follows. The role of Lun Tha was played by Larry Douglas, Prince Chulalongkorn was played by Johnny Stewart and the Kralahome, the Kings prime minister, was played in the try-out performances by Mervyn Vye. When Vyes only solo song Who would refuse?, was cut in an attempt to shorten the shows duration, he left and was replaced by John Juliano. Annas son, Louis, was played by Sandy Kennedy. Mary Martin
The first performances of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I were over 4 hours in length!
Yul Brynner (The King) was asked to shave off his hair by the shows costume designer Irene Sharaff. At first he declined, but it was so well received he continued to perform the role of the King bald. His bald head...became his trademark!
After try-out performances in New Haven, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts, Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I was considered to be too long and a great number of cuts were made to shorten the show. It finally opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on March 29, 1951 and was an instant success. Receiving rave reviews it went on to become the fourth longest running musical on Broadway for its time, completing a run of 1,246 performances eventually closing on March 20, 1954. In October of 1953 the show opened at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London. It ran for 926 performances. Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I has been revived many times since. The St James Theatre, Broadway
After giving up the stage, Dorothy Sarnoff, the original Lady Thiang in the first production of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I, embarked on a career as an image consultant. One of her clients was Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States of America!
THE CAST Anna LeonowensA widowed British schoolteacher employed by the King of Siam to teach English and Western knowledge to his children and wives The King of SiamKing Rama IV (King Mongkut) of Siam Lady ThiangThe Kings chief wife Lun ThaA Burmese envoy to the court of Siam who is in love with Tuptim TuptimA Burmese slave given to the King to be one of his junior wives Prince ChulalongkornThe Kings son and heir to the throne The KralahomeThe Kings Prime Minister Louis LeonowensAnnas son
Lisa McCune as Anna and Teddy Tahu Rhodes as The King in the 2014 Australian Production of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photography by Brian Geach
Lisa McCune as Anna in the 2014 Australian Production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. Photography by Brian Geach
ACT 1 TIME: The early 1860s. SETTING: The Royal City of Bangkok in the Kingdom of Siam. (now Thailand)
ACT 1 SCENE 1On the boat bound for Bangkok Anna Leonowens, a head strong, widowed schoolteacher arrives with her son Louis in the royal capital city of Bangkok in the Kingdom of Siam. Anna has been employed by the King to teach the English language and Western style knowledge to his children and wives. Annas young son, Louis, becomes fearful of the Kings prime minister, the Kralahome, who has come to escort them to the palace and not to a private residence as had been agreed. Anna voices her displeasure at this development and wonders if she has made the right decision to come to Siam. She comforts and reassures her son by singing I whistle a happy tune. ACT 1 SCENE 2The Kings Library in the Palace Anna and her son have been confined to their rooms in the palace for several weeks. In the palace library, the King is presented with a gift. Tuptim, a Burmese slave, is to be given to the King as a peace offering. The King admires his gift unaware that she is secretly in love with the young Burmese scholar and envoy Lun Tha, who has escorted her to Siam. The King departs and alone, Tuptim declares that he may own her body but not her heart. My Lord and Master
A scene from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 1 SCENE 2 continued Anna is finally given an audience with the King and he shows his delight when she demonstrates her awareness that she is part of his plan to modernise Siam. When Anna raises the issues of her salary, her days off and of her house that was meant to be built adjacent to the palace, the King becomes dismissive and orders her to talk with his wives. Upset, Anna is on the verge of storming out but the Kings wives become interested in the shape of her dress and whether or not she has children. Lady Thiang and Anna talk about the love of a woman for a man, and she tells the wives about her husband Tom. Hello Young Lovers The King re-enters and orders Anna to stand and meet his children. March of the Siamese Children. Beguiled, Anna is won over and decides to stay. ACT 1 SCENE 3In front of the curtain Prince Chulalongkorn, the Kings son and heir to the throne, is on his way to school. The King enters and enquires about his learning. Anna has taught him a proverb specifically aimed at reminding the King about Annas promised house. Annoyed, the King asks if the children have learnt nothing more. Chulalongkorn tells the King of the things they have learnt but, unsure what to believe, asks his father for advice. The King dismisses him and expresses his own bewilderment. A Puzzlement.
The March of the Siamese Children from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 1 SCENE 4 The School Room Anna is hard at work teaching the Kings children and wives English. The Royal Bangkok Academy The children are surprised when they see a map showing how small Siam is compared to other countries in the world. When one of the children disputes Siams insignificance Anna tells the children that England is even smaller. Now that she has met the people of Siam she is beginning to understand them. Getting to Know You The lesson continues and the children find it increasingly difficult to accept what they are being taught: walking on water (ice) and lace that falls from the sky (snow). The once orderly classroom becomes chaotic just as the King enters and to restore calm, he orders the children to believe what they are taught. Once again Anna brings up the matter of the house much to the Kings annoyance. Anna threatens to return to England and the children beg her not to. The King promises Anna servants and a bigger room in the palace but Anna is dismissive. The King, frustrated says he will hear NO more of the matter and dismisses the school. Lu Tha comes upon Tuptim and they sing of their secret love for each other. We kiss in a Shadow She senses that someone is watching and urges Lun Tha to leave. Prince Chulalongkorn and Louis meet after lessons and discuss their puzzlement at the behaviour of their parents.
Anna and Louis with the royal children in the Schoolroom from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 1 SCENE 5Annas Bedroom In her bedroom, an indignant Annas anger grows after her confrontation with the King. Shall I tell you what I think of You Late in the night, Lady Thiang, the Kings head wife, enters and asks Anna to go to the King. She explains that no-one has spoken to him in the way that Anna has and that agents of Siam have found letters to the British government accusing the King of being a barbarian. He is deeply troubled. Lady Thiang convinces Anna that the King needs her support. Something Wonderful ACT 1 SCENE 6The Kings Library Anna meets an anxious King in the palace library. He tells Anna that the British intend to send a diplomat, Sir Edward Ramsay, to Bangkok in order to determine if he is truly a barbarian. Anna guesses that the King will entertain Sir Edward in the European style and that his wives will put their best foot forward dressed in European fashion. It is also decided that a version of Uncle Toms Cabin, written by Tuptim, will be presented as entertainment for the visiting dignitaries. A fine dinner and a ball will convince them that the King is no barbarian. The Kralahome announces that the British are arriving early. Anna and the wives are to stay up all night in order to prepare. In friendship, the King promises Anna her house.
The Kings Palace from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 2 TIME: The early 1860s. SETTING: The Royal City of Bangkok in the Kingdom of Siam. (now Thailand)
ACT 2 SCENE 1The reception room at the Palace The wives of the King, dressed in their European-style dresses are gathered in the reception room of the palace and they sing of how uncomfortable Western clothing is. Western People Funny In the rush to prepare, Anna has forgotten to provide the wives with undergarments. When Sir Edward arrives and uses his monocle to observe them, they fear the evil eye and lift their dresses over their heads as they flee. Sir Edward is introduced to the King who apologises for the behaviour of his wives. Sir Edward is diplomatic about the incident and all exit for the dinner. ACT TWO SCENE 2Near the Theatre Pavilion Lady Thiang informs Tuptim that dinner has concluded and that she should make her way to the theatre pavilion to begin the play. When Tuptim uses the excuse that she is outside learning her lines, Lady Thiang confesses to having seen her with Lun Tha. She has not told the King for fear of hurting him, but Lun Tha must leave Siam at once. Lun Tha appears and tells Tuptim that he has an escape plan. They arrange to meet after the performance. I have Dreamed Anna happens upon the couple and warns them of the danger in their actions. Unable to convince them to remain she gives them her blessing Hello Young Lovers (reprise)
Tuptim and Lun Tha in Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 2 SCENE 3The Ballet Tuptims play, The Small House of Uncle Thomas is presented to the guests as a Siamese style ballet, narrated by Tuptim herself. In the play, the evil King, Simon of Legree, pursues a runaway slave, Eliza. In a miracle, Eliza is saved by Buddha who freezes a river and hides her in the snow. Buddha melts the river and the evil King Simon and his hunting party are all drowned. Tuptims anti-slavery message is obvious to all.
The Ballet from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
Simon of Legree. The Small House of Uncle Thomas ballet from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 2 SCENE 4The Kings Library The dinner with its accompanying entertainment has proved to be a great success. Pleased with the way things have gone, the King gives Anna a ring and insists that she put it on her finger. The Kralahome enters and tells the King that the secret police have news for him. Spies have told him that the British think highly of him and that they do not consider him a barbarian. The King returns to inform Anna that Tuptim is missing from the palace and asks her if she knows anything of the matter. Anna is evasive saying that she knew Tuptim was unhappy. The subject turns to poetry and the strange idea of Western love. Song of the King. Anna tries to explain the concept of courtship to him and the King insists that she teach him how to dance. Shall we Dance. The mood is shattered with the news that Tuptim has been found and that a search is being conducted for Lun Tha. Brought before the King, Tuptim denies that Lun Tha was her lover. Anna attempts to persuade the King not to harm Tuptim but he is adamant that Annas influence shall not prevail. Taking the whip he turns to lash Tuptim, but under Annas disapproving gaze he is unable to do so and leaves abruptly. Phra Alak announces that Lun Tha has been found dead. In remorse, Tuptim swears to kill herself as she is dragged away. No more is heard of her. Anna, regretting that she ever came to Siam returns the ring to the Kralahome.
The King and Anna. Shall We Dance from Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I. Photograph by Joan Marcus
ACT 2 SCENE 5A Room in Annas House Months pass with no contact between the King and Anna. Prince Chulalongkorn visits Anna and sees that she is packed and ready to leave Siam. He presents Anna with a letter from the King who is unable to resolve the conflicts within himself. He is dying. ACT 2 SCENE 6The Kings Study Anna hurries to the Kings bedside to find him surrounded by his wives and children. They beg her not to leave them and, deeply moved, she understands how much she loves them and how much they need her. The dying King instructs Anna to take back the ring and instructs her to take dictation from Chulalongkorn, the heir apparent. Chulalongkorn announces regally that, henceforth, there shall be no more kowtowing, a custom that Anna despised. As Chulalongkorn continues his father dies. Anna kneels by the body of the late King, tenderly holding his hand and kissing it. The wives and children all bow or curtsey in a final act of obeisance to the old king, and in an act of respect for the successor.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEINS THE KING AND I ACT 1 PRINCIPAL MUSICAL NUMBERS Overture Played before the curtain rises, the overture settles the audience and sets the mood. I whistle a Happy Tune Sung by Anna to re-assure her son Louis on their arrival in Bangkok. My Lord and Master In this song Tuptim, a Burmese slave given to the King as a peace offering, declares that the King may own her body but he can never have her heart. Hello Young Lovers Anna sings this lovely waltz melody to the wives of the King. She thinks of her departed husband Tom but the song is really dedicated to young lovers everywhere. The March of the Siamese Children Rodgers was able to give this orchestral piece a wonderful Asian flavour. It is played as the royal children enter and are presented to Anna. As they grow in age and size, the music gets louder. The loudest music is reserved for Prince Chulalongkorn, the future king.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEINS THE KING AND I ACT 1 continued PRINCIPAL MUSICAL NUMBERS A Puzzlement As he attempts to modernise Siam by encouraging a European style of education, the King sings of his confusion over what or what not to believe. Getting to Know You In the schoolroom, Anna sings of her growing affection for the royal children. We Kiss in a Shadow Tuptim and Lun Tha sing of their secret love for each other. To avoid being discovered they must Kiss in a Shadow. Shall I tell You what I think of You After a confrontation with the King, Anna imagines what she would like to say to his face, fully realising that she cannot. As the song progresses her anger grows. Something Wonderful Lady Thiang, the Kings chief wife, sings this tender melody pleading with Anna to go to the troubled King. In the song we learn of another side to the King and of Lady Thiangs love for him.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEINS THE KING AND I ACT 2 PRINCIPAL MUSICAL NUMBERS Entracte A smaller orchestral piece played before the curtain rises. Western People Funny Lady Thiang and the wives sing of their amusement at Western dress and customs. I have dreamed Lun Tha tells Tuptim of his plan to escape with her. Together, they sing of their love for each other. The Small House of Uncle Thomas The music to accompany Tuptims play makes use of Asian sounds and was arranged by Trude Rittman. Song of the King Anna and the King sing of their differing attitudes to women and love. Shall We Dance Anna teaches the King to dance. But this song is so much more than just a dance. It is a commentary on respect, morality, the relationship between man and woman, physical attraction and power. It is what the show is about.
Richard Rodgers clearly understood that the Siamese setting of the musical meant that his music needed not only to be foreign and oriental sounding, but familiar and appealing to the ears of Broadway audiences. Two techniques by which Rodgers was able to achieve a sense of the oriental in his music were: the use of the interval of the perfect fifth the sprinkling of dissonance throughout the score The songs for Anna are much more conventional and Western sounding than those of written for the Siamese characters. Annas songs such as I whistle a Happy Tune, Hello Young Lovers and Getting to know You are primarily constructed from simple harmonies derived from Chords I, IV and V of the Western diatonic scale. On the other hand, the music for The March of the Siamese Children, Praise Buddha, and the songs for Lady Thiang and the King make use of the bareness of intervals such as the Perfect 5th and 4th, and the strident sounds of dissonances such as the major 7th and the diminished 5th.
The 1956 film version of Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I was nominated for 9 academy awards. It won 5. It was, and still is, banned in Thailand.
After seeing a performance of the show some years after its first performance on Broadway, Richard Rodgers wrote to Oscar Hammerstein and suggested to him that the musical was probably their best work. He intimated that he wasnt sure how it had all come about but, nonetheless, their best work. You would be hard pressed to argue otherwise. Rodgers and Hammersteins The King and I remains one of their best-loved and most frequently performed works.
Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Leonowens members.tripodhttp://members.tripod.com/king_anna/leonowens.html womenshistory.about.comhttp://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blleonowens.htm womenshistory.about.com http://womenshistory.about.com/od/leonowensanna/a/anna _king_true.htm Women in European History http://womenineuropeanhistory.org/index.php?title=Anna_L eonowens Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongkut Encyclopedia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/389268/Mongk ut royalty.nuhttp://www.royalty.nu/Asia/Thailand/Mongkut.html Opera Australia - The King and Ihttps://opera.org.au/the_king_and_i Anna and the King: digesting difference http://www.yorku.ca/laps/anth/faculty/esterik/documents/ann a.pdf
SOURCES Inside the King and I: An analysis by Scott Miller http://www.newlinetheatre.com/kingandichapter.html The Newline Theatre http://www.newlinetheatre.com/sitemap.html Sheetmusicplus http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/broadway/the-king-and-i- sheet-music/300201 The King and I Conductors Notes http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/_king_i_notes.htm metrolyrics http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-king-and-i-lyrics.html The King and I Trivia http://www.theoperablog.com/watercooler-wisdom- rodgers-hammersteins-the-king-and-i/ Olney Theatre Centre http://issuu.com/olneytheatre/docs/draft.kandi.contextguid e/10 The King and I Australia http://thekingandimusical.com.au Anna and the King of Siam (film) 1946 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_and_the_King_of_Siam_ (filmhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_and_the_King_of_Siam_ (film) The King and I http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I
SOURCES Wikimedia Commonshttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikipediahttp://www.wikipedia.org youtubehttp://www.youtube.com/ The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisationhttp://www.rnh.com The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisationhttp://www.rnh.com/show/60/the-king-and-i Broadway Musicals Martin Gottfried. AbraDale Press Harry N Abrams, Inc. New York 1979 ISBN 0-8109-8060-6 The English Governess at the Siamese CourtGutenberg Press e book Musicals The Complete Illustrated Story of the Worlds Most Popular Entertainment Kurt Gränzel. Carlton Publishing 1995 ISBN 1 8444 26661 Broadway. The American Musical. Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon. Bulfinch Press. 2004 ISBN 0-8212-2905-2