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'The King and I' comes to UA's Centennial Hall

The King and I 2
Matthew Murphy | The Daily Wildcat Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I

UA Presents and Broadway in Tucson present "The King and I," an intricate performance of high quality and creative innovation that transports audiences through time.

The show, which was performed in Centennial Hall last week, is a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical is based on a novel by Margaret Landon. It recounts the unconventional relationship between the King Mongkut of Siam, located in modern day Thailand, and Anna Leonowens, a British school teacher.

Derived from the memoirs of Anna in the 1860s, audience members were transported into a world of the past, with a view on modernism like no other. 

This is a story of romanticism, modernism and the ability to create change in the situations that arise. Anna, who is brought to Siam to teach the king's children, learns more about life than she ever expected. 

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The musical captivates people of all ages. Its catchy songs and creative story line stole the audience's heart and brought tears and laughter all in the same moment. 

The striking part of this production is the music itself. From the beginning, the musicianship brings audiences into Anna’s world and enhances an emotional story line.

“As a musician myself, the music made me connect deeply to the story line and the struggles of the characters. The music captured the emotions of each character in a way words never could, etc. etc. etc. as actor Jose Llana would say,” said Grace Heffernon, a freshman and biomedical engineering student at UA.

Conductor Gerald Steichen said the people who make this possible are “a combination of local musicians and those who travel with the cast permanently.”

This is quite a feat. The local musicians only get there the day before and practice right before the first show. A production of this size and stature is a fantastic opportunity for local artists to play and be a part of the set in a delightful and whimsical way. 

“We only have four permanent musicians that travel with the cast and play, the rest we invite from the community of talented artists where we go,” Steichen said. 

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The symphony is the heart of this performance. Using voices that captivate, however, the cast also does a phenomenal job bringing the story to life. 

With a voice that can be compared to Julie Andrews and talent that goes without saying, actress Laura Michelle Kelly creates a character the audience can truly fall in love with. 

She and actor Jose Llana, alongside the rest of the multi-talented cast, pull the audience in, leaving them breathless at the depth of their musical and production talents. 

Matthew Murphy
The cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I.


“This will be Laura Michelle Kelly’s last performance with the cast. After this, she will be leaving for another tour,” Steichen said. Actress Elena Shaddow will take over the role of Anna starting March 20. 

With a total of 480 shows, the productions rotating cast will continue on their tour after Tucson to delight audiences around the nation. This Tony Award winning musical is definitely one to remember.


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