NLT ends season with “The King”

Published 12:08 am Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good morning, Natchez and the Miss-Lou! Natchez Little Theatre, Mississippi’s oldest community theatre, entertaining over 23,000 annually, is proud to present the final production of the 62nd Season, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King and I.”

The production is based on the book “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens. Anna became a schoolteacher to the children of King Mongut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The musical opened on Broadway in 1951 and was the sixth collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It ran for 1,246 performances winning the Tony for Best Musical and numerous other awards. Gertrude Lawrence, who starred as Anna, died during the run of the musical. “The King and I” was made into a popular 1956 film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner.

East versus West makes for a dramatic, richly textured and ultimately uplifting tale of enormous fascination. It is 1862, in Siam when English widow Anna Leonowens, played by Courtney Jones Hicks, with her young son, Louis, played by John Ashton Hicks, arrives at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the King to serve as a tutor to his many children and wives.

The King, played by Darryl V. Grennell, 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.

Along with the dazzling score by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the incomparable Jerome Robbins ballet, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” is one of the all-time marvels of the musical stage.

I have had the privilege of directing one of the largest casts at NLT with assistance from Darlene McCune, musical director and Danielle Thornton, assistant director.  Don Vesterse has constructed the sets and Tommy Jackson has put together the orchestration of memorable music and will run the sound for the show. Lynn Mann will stage manage along with Don Vesterse. The choreography for the “Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet” is by Sydney Eidt and Jessi Green with generous assistance by Caroline Eidt and Barbara Nell Lomasney. The costumes have come together with the aid of Susie Sharp, Sandra Stokes of San-Jay’s Creations and Rachel Lindsey.

The remainder of this talented cast are Alethea Shelton as Lady Thiang; Giovanna Little as Tuptim; James Wesley Forde as Lun Tha; Mease Banks as the Kralahome and a supporting cast of Stacey Carden, Dondrell Fleming, Kim King, Merisha Gore, Rudy Timm, Sydney Eidt, Rhoshawnda Baker, Trey Price, Don Vesterse, Erin Hicks, Jessi Green, Matt Fontenot, Hester Rose Brown, Rachel Lindsey, Gabrielle Richardson, Katie Sanderson, Lou Ellen Stout, Danielle Thornton, Laurie Williams, Marylee Williams, Wade Heatherly, George Piazza, Josie Baker, Logan Baker, Katie Borum, Danielle Brown, Victoria Green, Annabelle Hayes, Carolyne Heatherly, Emily Hicks, Ashleigh Johnson, Joanna Johnson, Piper Mophett, Colby Passman, Elaine Harter and Anne White.

“The King and I” opens at the Natchez Little Theatre located at 319 Linton Ave., in historic Natchez with a preview/benefit performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 2.

Tickets are $10 for this benefit of the Natchez Little Theatre’s Dawn Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Opening night is Thursday, June 3, and the show runs through Saturday, June 5, with 7:30 p.m. performances and closes Sunday, June 6, with at 2 p.m. matinee.

Tickets for these four performances are $15 and should be reserved by calling Natchez Little Theatre at 601-442-2233; toll free at 1-877-440-2233 or online at  NLT’s 63rd Season Board of Directors will be elected during the run of this show and now is the time to join NLT for an exciting new season that opens in August with “Beauty and the Beast;” followed by “Big River;” Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?;” “A Natchez Christmas Carol;” “Moon Over Buffalo;” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof;” “Southern Exposure;” and “The Secret Garden.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community for making this the busiest and most successful season in NLT’s 77 year history.  Special thanks go to our executive producers.

I look forward to seeing you at Natchez Little Theatre.

Layne Taylor is the director of “The King & I” and artistic and executive director NLT.