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It's time to see vibrant 'King and I!'

 

Last updated 8/30/2007 at Noon



Elaborate costumes, bold voices, large cast and a live orchestra – it sounds like a Broadway play, doesn’t it? Even though the costumes, singing and acting are Broadway-like, this is a production by the Patio Playhouse Community Theatre in Escondido. For their summer production Patio is using the Kit Carson Park Amphitheatre, which is very wheelchair-friendly: close to parking and on even, flat terrain.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is probably one of the best known of all Broadway musicals. With a cast of about 47, Patio’s version was marvelous. “Small House of Uncle Thomas,” a play within a play, was also well done. It is significant to the plot as it illustrates the slave Tuptim’s unhappy state.

One of Fallbrook’s brightest stars, Sandra Kopitzke, plays Anna Leonowens, the “I” in “The King and I.” With her animated expressions and lovely voice, she sang the large repertoire of songs with vibrancy. Her strong voice came through in “I Whistle a Happy Tune.” Kopitzke sang the haunting “Hello, Young Lovers” with emotion and “Getting to Know You” with animation. When Anna and the King slid and bounced around the floor in “Shall We Dance,” the audience was moved to applause.

Kopitzke played a strong and convincing Anna. It was evident that she loved performing with the children. “I don’t feel like I am acting because I love being with the kids,” she noted. She also loved the character of Anna. “She’s funny, but feisty – I really enjoyed the part.”

Kezia Liu was a musical standout as the slave Tuptim. Her clear and strong voice kept the audience in rapt attention and her agony was evident in the song “My Lord and Master.” When she sang the memorable duets “I Have Dreamed” and “We Kiss in a Shadow” with John Lombere (Lun Tha, Tuptim’s lover), they both did a marvelous job.

All of the cast members gave excellent performances and kept the play on a classical track. Brett Daniels as the King of Siam sang a noble and robust rendition of “A Puzzlement.” He was sufficiently brass and bold, reminding me of Yul Brynner, as he pounded the floor with his bare feet.

Macon Bauer played a convincing role as Anna’s son; and Sam Kohler who played Prince Chululongkorn, the heir to the throne, also did a fine job.

The King’s children were of all ages and played their servile roles with practiced expertise. Nicole Fleuret played a strict, but fair, Lady Thiang and seemed fit for the part.

The elaborate costumes created by Jet Fleuret were inventive and stunningly effective. They probably made it easier for the characters to immerse themselves in a story about Siam in the 1860s. The King’s wives and Tuptim were draped with colorful and satiny material and Kopitzke as Anna floated around the stage in ruffles and large hoop skirts.

“The King and I” is one of America’s best-loved musicals, made famous by the Broadway play and also by the 1956 film starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. The musical is based on a true story, which is told in the book “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon.

The story concerns a proper Welsh widow, Anna Leonowens, who is summoned to teach the children of the King of Siam in the 1860s. She arrives in Siam with her son finding a very different world – much of which she cannot accept. The King of Siam is somewhat interested in incorporating western ways in his court but has conflicts, especially concerning slavery. The issue of slavery comes between the friendship of Anna and the King, but in the play they are reconciled in the end.

What is so incredible about this production is that the cast, as well as the orchestra, (which is led by Ruthann Taylor), is comprised of volunteers. I noticed that in the program the name of the orchestra wasn’t listed. They played so well together that I thought it was a local orchestra, but I was told they are a group of volunteers who have come together for the sole purpose of playing music for “The King and I.”

Only one warning… with the marvelous singing accompanied by the delightful orchestra you will surely be “Whistling a Happy Tune” for days afterward!

“The King and I”

Kit Carson Park Amphitheatre

3333 Bear Valley Parkway

Escondido

Friday, Aug. 31; Saturday, Sept. 1;

and Sunday, Sept. 2

All shows begin at 8 p.m.

(760) 746-6669

http://www.patioplayhouse.com

 

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