The King and I | Classic Love Story Comes to Austin with Musical Twists & Turns

by Britni Rachal on December 6, 2017 in Living Texas, Austin, Theatre,
Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers Hammersteins The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy e1512506061684

Broadway’s The King and I will make a stop in Austin from Dec. 12 – 17. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the play is already the winner of four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

Classics including Getting to Know You, Hello Young Lovers, Shall We Dance, I Have Dreamed and Something Wonderful make the musical complete. Based in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British school teacher, whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brought to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

Ahead of the show’s opening at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall, we chatted with Joan Almedilla, who plays Lady Thiang, the head wife.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

What is your favorite part about your role as Lady Thiang?
That she carries a strong presence, not necessarily using words to convey her thoughts, but when she speaks they are intelligent and powerful.

What makes this Broadway production different than other plays you’ve starred in?
I’ve been blessed to have played iconic roles such as Kim in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Miserables, both victims of circumstances. Lady Thiang, on the other hand, orchestrates her fate and the future of her beloved country, Siam, and she sings one of the most memorable songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, “Something Wonderful.” She doesn’t say much. The words are still as relevant today as when it was written back then.

The cast of The King and I.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Do you have a favorite scene or song in the play?
Too many! Let me start with “The March of The Siamese Children.” My heart just melts in every show. Some nights my thoughts get easily distracted with how fortunate this company is to have well-behaved, smart kids onstage as well as offstage. I enjoy every minute of “Getting To Know You.” I also like the King and Mrs. Anna’s scenes that range from awkwardness to funny nuances, tension and conflict and then to learning from each other.

Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao in The King and I.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Is there a favorite prop or costume that stands out to you in The King and I?
Our Costume designer, Catherine Zuber, won the Tony Award for her work. Her attention to detail helps the actors get into character and transports us all back into time. Michael Yeargan’s stage design of the symbolic palace wall opens up to reveal the true spirit of the people’s insecurities inside the palace. By letting their guard down, they become brave and stronger.

Why should people come see you perform in The King and I at Bass Concert Hall?
This classic love story is now relevant more than ever. Bartlett Sher’s interpretation of the show allows audiences to not only be entertained but to question and appreciate all that is something wonderful in each of us and reminds us of how important it is to respect each other’s differences.

The King and I runs Dec. 12 – 17 at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin • Tickets start at $30