The King and I: Great, Fantastic, Wonderful, Et Cetera, Et Cetera, Et Cetera

By Mara Shapiro

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The cast of The King and I. Photo by Daniel Bedoya

A petulant king, 67 and counting children, many wives, a determined schoolteacher, wonderful scenery, and beautiful music. What is this you may ask? Well, it’s Niles West’s version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical, The King and I.

The musical opened up with a song by the band and orchestra members in the pit. Then the first scene was revealed.  British widow schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, played by junior Lauren Langer, is aboard a ship with her son Louis, played by freshman Cameron Broderick, en route to Bangkok, Siam (present day Thailand). Anna is looking forward to being The King’s children and wives’  teacher, and can’t wait until she sees the house The King has promised her.

Also on board the ship is Captain Orton, played by sophomore Rishi Patel. Orton warns Anna that it could be dangerous for a woman such as herself to be living in Siam.Anna brushes him off. Louis, on the other hand, tells his mother that the Siames people scare him. Anna then tells her son not to worry and that whistling always calms her nerves down. By this time the boat has reached Siam, and it is time for Louis and Anna to depart. Anna grabs Louis and they both whistle as they go to meet The King’s right hand man, The Kralahome, played by junior Quinn Lawson- Hall.

King and I stars Aleks Krapivkin and Lauren Langer with pit director Mary Jo Papich. Photo by Daniel Bedoya

Anna and Louis meet the very intimidating Kralahome. The look of anger on Lawson- Hall’s face was very expressive.  The Kralahome explains to Anna how she will be escorted to the palace, where she will be living. Anna cannot believe what she is hearing. She insists in the letter The King wrote her that she was to live in a separate house. Meanwhile, an interpreter is going back and forth between Anna and The Kralahome. Every time the interpreter and Kralahome spoke the pit would play music instead of the two talking. The Kralahome is angry that Anna would argue, so he kicks the interpreter in the face. It should be mentioned that the interpreter is in fact, a woman. The Kralahome tells Anna that The King won’t remember that he made such a promise and that she shouldn’t anger him. Anna being the determined woman that she is, decides to still bother The King.

Anna is roughly led to The King’s chambers. The King, played by senior Aleksandr Krapivkin, tells Anna that she will indeed live in the palace. Anna is furious but obeys. She then asks him how many children she will be taking care of. He retorts with ” 67. I started late.” Anna meets all the wives and children. The children who were mostly played by students from our feeder schools, were adorable. Every time they walked out on the stage you could hear tons of ” Aws.”  Anna then meets the wives, including head wife Lady Thiang(the mother to the heir, Prince Chulalonghorn, played by freshman Surdeep Chauhan) played by senior Nicole Yoon, and The King’s recent gift from the King of  Burma, Tuptim, played by junior Elizabeth Mangulabnan. Tuptim has a secret. She is secretly in love with someone else other than The King.

As the musical goes on, Anna teaches the children and wives about different things, such as the shape of the world and snow.  Anna also aides Tuptim in meeting with her lover Lun Tha, played by senior Ravi Patel. Meanwhile, Anna and The King grow closer. She teaches him the word et cetera, which he proceeds to use multiple times throughout the musical, that he doesn’t always know everything, and that women are not his servants.  The King has some fun with Anna, too. He has a rule that no one can be higher than his head, and proceeds to go lower and lower onto the floor until Anna is flat on her stomach.  While Anna teaches, The King is very witty and eccentric.

The musical starts to close when the royal family puts on a rendition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the British representative, Sir Edward Ramsey, played by junior Aaron Ruderman.  The palace had gotten all spruced up for Ramsey, because Britain had gotten word that The King was a barbarian. After the show, Tuptim leaves with her lover. The King gets word and sends out a search party. Tuptim is then brought back and gets prepared for a beating. Anna is disgusted and tells The King he truly is a barbarian and that she is leaving with Louis for Singapore where she came. Louis, who had previously gotten into fights with Prince Chulalongkorn, has now struck up a friendship with him. It should also be noted that Tuptim’s lover had died from the time they ran off  to her being captured.

The scene then shifts to Anna and Louis preparing to leave for Singapore. Lady Thiang then tells Anna that The King is dying and that he wrote her a letter. Persuaded by the letter, Anna goes to The King’s deathbed. The King and Anna make up(he gives her a raise and a house.) Before The King dies, his heir tells his father all the reforms he will make when he is king. Anna also tells The King that she and Louis will continue living in the palace. The King dies and Anna makes all the kids whistle.  Thus ends The King and I.

Overall, The King and I was spectacular. The musical, led by Pit Orchestra Director Mary Jo Papich, was beautiful and the acting was stupendous. The actors all had amazing voices, even in their broken English. Krapivkin was a fantastic King, making the audience disgusted with him and love him at the same time, even though he feels that women are only put on Earth to please men. Langer was an endearing Anna, as well.  There were many laughs had throughout the play. The costumes were superb and the audience gave a standing ovation as the pit and actors bowed.

“[The King and I] was by far the best show I have ever seen at Niles West,” sophomore Basia Gawin says.

Senior Harris Miller agrees.

“Well, I thought The King and I was amazing. It had many comical parts, too,” Miller says.

Great job to the actors, crew, and pit. The scenery was lovely, as was the musical itself. The King and I was a great choice for the spring musical. Theatre Director Andrew Sinclair really outdid himself. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for next year’s Theatre season!