Thursday, January 27, 2005

Powers brings her rich life and career to 'The King and I'

Broadway classic is coming to the Hippodrome

When a lavish new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I arrives at the Hippodrome next week -- its third stop on an 11-month national tour -- theater fans will have a chance to see the work of one of America's more prodigious actresses.

Millions know Stefanie Powers as the glamorous, crime-stopping star of such TV series as The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) and Hart to Hart (1979-84), but in a five-decade career that began in Hollywood at the age of 15, she has also starred in multiple motion pictures (The Interns, McClintock!, Gone With the West), hit TV miniseries (Mistral's Daughter) and international stage productions (Oliver!, A View From the Bridge, The Vagina Monologues). Powers, 62, first played Anna Leonowens -- the British governess to the family of the King of Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s -- in London in 2002.

One of the entertainment industry's most committed conservationists, she keeps homes in California, in London and in Kenya, where she heads the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, a 1,200-acre animal sanctuary and education center. She calls Holden, the late film star who was her partner for nine years, "the most significant human being in my life."

Last week, she took time to chat with The Sun.

You've been a TV, film and stage actress. Is musical theater a challenge?

As actors, we reinvent ourselves over a long career. When people say, "How do you sing?" I tell them I started [at 15] as a dancer who sang. Singing has just become a bit more prominent.

And I love classical musical comedy and musical theater. If the Broadway musical is the true American art form -- and it is -- The King And I is classical American theater. It's wonderful to be able to bring this extraordinary piece back to the stage in its country of origin.

What do you enjoy most about the play?

The more I do it, the more enamored I am of [Oscar] Hammerstein's words, which are exquisite -- just seamless as they segue from the dialogue in the book to the songs. For a time, Andrew Lloyd Webber brought about the non-book musical, which got theater people off track of the importance of the book. But Mr. Hammerstein? What a fabulous talent; what a gift to all of us.

Are film, TV and stage acting different?

It's all acting. If you're an actor who got into the business to be an actor, you train to be able to do it all. That's the business we're in. There are particular techniques to each, but to me, the most important element, by far, is the quality of a part. I don't prefer one form to another.

How do you feel, looking back, about your big TV roles, like the sleuth Jennifer Hart on Hart to Hart?

It was really a completely different part of my life. At the same time, everything you do as an actor shapes what you do later. I'm happy I had the chance to play those parts.

You've acted with John Wayne, Glenn Ford, even Tallulah Bankhead. How has that shaped you?

It has made my life so much easier. Actors share a common history, a commonality that makes us colleagues. You take a bit from each one. And as you say, I'm lucky. It was a privilege to be around during what amounted to the waning days of the studio system and to work alongside some of the greats of that era.

You've called William Holden the most significant person in your life. Do you still feel his influence?

Well, I was in love with him; every aspect of what he did and who he was fascinated me. We were soul mates. But mostly, he was a wonderful teacher. And what he had to teach, I found interesting, from his knowledge of the African wilderness to [art] and everything else. He imbued me with so many of the things he valued. He passed them on.

That's what we do to each other, isn't it, and for each other? We pass on things that are important to us.

You've played everything from aviators to cowgirls. What interests you about Anna?

I know a great deal about her; I've studied that piece of history [1860s Siam]. I've spent quite a bit of time in [Southeast Asia, where she traveled frequently with Holden]. It's always helpful to have done a certain amount of research. And, in colonial Britain, when a woman's husband died, she was in a difficult spot. She wasn't expected to get a job. Anna does. She's alone against adversity, in a way.

If you don't look into the history -- if you don't do the research -- it's hard to address the present and the future. Playing Anna is a journey into the past.

The King and I is at the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St., Tuesday through Feb. 13. Tickets, $22-$67, are available at the box office (10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday or 10 a.m.-showtime on performance days); through Ticketmaster (410-547-SEAT), or at www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica. com.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Fan's Visit with Stefanie

I saw the "King and I" last night in Detroit. The play is a beautiful show to watch. And, I thought Stefanie was wonderful as I watched her perform! I just couldn't believe I was seeing her in person. As the show drew to a close, I kept my fingers crossed and did a bit of praying that things would work out so I could meet her after the show.

I asked a theatre usher about the person I was to ask for and he was happy to help find him. Within a few minutes I was escorted backstage to Stefanie's dressing room. We walked across the stage and up a flight of stairs. As we walked back, I really only then began to get nervous about meeting her. I couldn't believe it was actually going to happen after all. He told me I was lucky that particular evening in that I (and my husband) were the only visitors for Stefanie and that the next evening (Friday night) he and Stefanie were expecting some 40 people after the show.
He peeked in and asked if she was ready. She came to the door and greeted me with a smile and shook my hand. I told her my name and that I was from N.'s group. She invited us in and introduced us to her little dog "Bounce" who quickly came over to my feet as I reached down to pet her. Stefanie asked if we had enjoyed the show while she was trying to get a little doggie sweater on Bounce (only 10 degrees in Detroit that night). I told her I thought the whole show was just beautiful. She sat down a few feet across from us and we spoke a few minutes about the show and about our pets. I then proceeded to tell her how I had been a fan of hers since I was 5 or 6 yrs. old and how happy I was to finally have the chance to see her perform in person. She gave me a big smile tilted her head to the side and said "Awwww". With Bounce still snuggled in her lap, she then reached back to a ledge behind her where she had a small pile of photos for autographing. I handed her a Sharpie I had
with me and she asked how I spelled my name (K.) as she started to sign it and also signed my program. She said "see your name is spelled a bit different and that is why I always ask" As she was signing, I told her I was expecting my first child in June. She congratulated us and said " Oh my, now your hormones will be going crazy. I've been through many pregnancies with friends of mine."

I asked if we could have a picture taken together and she graciously agreed. She put her arm around me as my husband took our photo. We all then put our coats on and she said she would show us back to the exit. She put Bounce in her carrier and lead us back downstairs. She wished us a safe trip home and a health baby. With the excitement of meeting her I almost forgot that I had brought with me a donation to WHWF for her. When I handed her the envelope I had labeled "WHWF," she looked down at it and then looked up at me smiled and leaned over to give me a hug and said thank you. I again thanked her for her time and wished her the best as she continues the tour this year.

And that was it. My visit may have only lasted a matter of minutes, but I will treasure those moments forever!! Stefanie was so very sweet and gracious! Those of you who hope to also get a chance to meet Stefanie as she tours, don't be too nervous. She is a sweetheart in person just as
others who have met her have remarked.


Friday, January 21, 2005

DIVA TALK: A Chat with The King & I's Powers

Stefanie Powers as The King and I's Anna Leonowens


Though she is best known for her Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated work as Jennifer Hart on the hit TV series "Hart to Hart," Stefanie Powers has a long history in the theatre. Though she has yet to appear on Broadway, the actress — who is also dedicated to the preservation of wild animals — has starred in productions of Oliver!, Annie Get Your Gun and My Fair Lady. She also co-starred with John Barrowman in the London production of Matador and toured the U.S. as Margo Channing in the most recent revival of Applause. A few years back, Powers succeeded Elaine Paige in the West End revival of The King and I, and she recently returned to the role of Anna Leonowens in the current tour of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. I recently had the chance to chat with the actress singer, whose musical talent can be tasted on her new Jambo Music CD, "Stefanie Powers—On the Same Page." That brief interview follows:

Question: What made you decide you wanted to tour again?
Stefanie Powers: It seemed like a good idea. [Laughs.] It's a wonderful piece. I haven't toured the United States for quite awhile.

Q: Do you enjoy touring?
Powers: I don't enjoy touring in the wintertime. [Laughs.] The toughest part is going to be the first five months because of the obvious problems of weather and people having colds on airplanes and flights getting canceled. That's going to be the roughest part. Once we get through the winter, it'll be better.

Q: How long are you scheduled to be with the tour?
Powers: The whole tour, with a couple of breaks, will be ten months, so it's the better part of next year.

Q: When did you first play the role of Anna?
Powers: In England I took over in the West End production for Elaine Paige. That was a joy to do, and I get to do [the tour] with the same actor playing the King, Ronobir Lahiri. He also toured the rest of the U.K. [with Marti Webb as Anna].

Q: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for Anna?
Powers: I think the classroom scene. That's a lot of fun.

Q: Do you enjoy working with the little kids?
Powers: Yes! [Laughs.] In this case we've got a wonderful cast of children, some of whom don't speak English. But I speak a little Chinese. I speak a bit of Mandarin and a tiny bit of Cantonese, so I hope my language will improve.

Q: How did the London role come about?
Powers: I think we approached [the producers]. They were looking for someone to take [over for Elaine Paige]. I guess it was the right person at the right time.

Q: When did your love of the theatre begin? Did your parents take you to shows as a child?
Powers: Yes, I'm sure it was through early exposure. That's what's lovely about [The King and I]. Because it's such a wonderful piece, such a fabulous piece of entertainment, we get to reach and hopefully impress a whole new generation of young people who need to be exposed to good music and have a positive connection with the theatre. And that's what this play does, and it's wonderful to be a part of it.

Q: Do you get to see much theatre now? Do you get to New York at all or do you see things out in L.A.?
Powers: I live also in England, so I see a great deal of theatre.

Q: Anything that's particularly impressed you recently?
Powers: I think Kevin Spacey's first play at the Old Vic, [Maria Goos’ Cloaca]. It got mixed reviews, but I thought it was a wonderful production, beautifully directed and wonderfully acted.

Q: What are some of your favorite theatre roles that you've done?
Powers: ["Hart to Hart" co-star] Robert Wagner and I did a very successful — over 400 performances — of Love Letters, which was very successful for both of us. There was a wonderful Alan Ayckbourn play called How the Other Half Loves, and there was a musical in England called Matador, which I enjoyed very much doing.

Q: Do you have a preference for doing musicals versus dramas?
Powers: Well, a good musical is awfully tempting! [Laughs.] But I think it has to do with the quality of the piece. Obviously, anything of quality: a good play, a good musical, a good script makes all the difference.

Q: Do you still study voice? How do you protect your voice while your doing eight performances a week?
Powers: I work on it — continually.

Q: Any other projects your involved in at the moment?
Powers: Well, I have another life, which is my life in conservation. That's an ongoing commitment to both the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and the Jaguar Conservation Trust, both of which I head. I'm also a fellow of the Los Angeles Zoo and several other zoos. I'm an advisor to some species survivor programs. It's a very large commitment for me and ongoing. It's not something I just put my name to. It's something that I'm deeply involved with. I authored the Jaguar Conservation Trust. I am the principal fundraiser and person who sets the curriculum of the Education Center of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, which functions in Kenya, and we serve over 10,000 students a year.

Q: Will it be difficult keeping up those commitments while touring?
Powers: It will be challenging.

Q: Last question: When people hear the name Stefanie Powers, what would you like them to think?
Powers: Gosh, that's an interesting question. I've never thought of anything that way. I don't know that I'd like them to think about anything other than to at least have some positive impression.

The current itinerary for The King and I tour — with Powers as Anna Leonowens — follows:
Jan. 11-30 at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, MI
Feb. 1-13 at the France-Merrick PAC in Baltimore, MD
Feb. 15-20 at the Moran Theatre at Times Union Performing Arts Center in Jacksonville, FL
Feb. 22-27 at the Milwaukee Theater in Milwaukee, WI
March 1-2 at The Whiting in Flint, MI
March 4-13 at the Dupont Theatre in Wilmington, DE
March 17-April 3 at the Hobby Center in Houston, TX
April 5-17 at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, CA

[For more information about Powers' wildlife work, visit The William Holden Wildlife Foundation at or The Jaguar Conservation Trust at]

Review: 'The King and I"

A "royal" love story entertains at Detroit's Fisher Theatre

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear - the early '50s to be exact. Detroit's population was almost 2 million; its streets were canopied with arching trees, and it was a hot spot for touring theater. Today, the population is halved; the trees ravaged by beetles. But every once in a while, a show comes to town that reminds us what the glory days of Broadway looked like in the Motor City.

The current tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1951 blockbuster, "The King and I," is as retro as a PT Cruiser. It boasts an attractive, low-tech ("Look, Ma! No turntable!") set. Its "glitz" is in the costumes, some of which are literally dazzling. It employs a big ensemble of singers and dancers, backed by the rich depth of a full orchestra. It returns to the stage the stunning choreography of Jerome Robbins, as recreated by Susan Kikuchi. Oh, and last but certainly not least, it features some of the most beautiful music in the American theater, written by two masters of the art.

A little "star power" doesn't hurt, either.

Stefanie Powers, better known for her television work ("Hart to Hart"), appears as Anna Leonowens, the British-born schoolteacher who accepts a post in the royal court of Siam. Her sensitive, low-keyed reading of Anna is central to the production; her pleasant singing voice adequately addresses her musical numbers.

An energetic Ronobir Lahiri provides a fine-tuned counterpoint to Ms. Powers' restraint. His interpretation of the King is not so much autocrat as frustrated head of a household - comfortable with his privilege, but both seeking and fearing change. It is an altogether winning performance.

But the "star" here is that incomparable music. To hear just how good it can sound performed live, listen to mezzo Catherine MiEun Choi as Lady Thiang. Her solo, "Something Wonderful," is wonderful, indeed. You may be tempted to throw away your Yul Brynner CD.

On the other hand, was there a decision to move the focus more on Anna and the King than it was already? Was it necessary to tighten the reins and get this big show down to its two and half hour running time? The doomed love of Tuptim, a "gift" to the King, and the Burmese emissary, Lun Tha, seems truncated and rushed. Pity - "We Kiss in a Shadow" should be a showstopper whenever it's performed.

On the whole, though, a little Thailand heat, courtesy of Rogers and Hammerstein, might warm your heart this January.

"The King and I" Presented Tuesday through Sunday at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, through Jan. 30. Tickets: $30.50 - $68. 313-872-1000.

The Bottom Line: This tour serves up a healthy helping of classic musical theater -as familiar and satisfying as Mom's meat loaf.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Polish American Congress

Polish American Congress: Holiday Luncheon, noon Jan. 27. PNA Banquet Facility, 10211 Conant, Hamtramck. Special guest Stefanie Powers, actress in "The King & I" at the Fisher Theater starting Jan. 11. Luncheon tickets are $30; no tickets sold at the door. Barbara, 313-365-9400 or 313-365-8949, or Stella, 313-875-1297.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Macomb Daily : A 'Hart' for Poland's orphans 01/15/05

But Stefanie Powers says local groups deserve praise for their efforts.

She won their hearts all the more.

Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz first won their hearts as the actress Stefanie Powers in the role of Jennifer Hart in the romantic adventure TV show, "Hart to Hart." She won their hearts even more at a benefit held Thursday in Sterling Heights to help orphaned children in Poland.

The benefit luncheon was held at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on 18 Mile Road in Sterling Heights in raising funds for the American Polish Assistance Association, or APAA, an organization located on Gratiot in Eastpointe.

"The work you are doing is absolutely outstanding," Powers told the gathering of about 150 people in praising the APAA.

Founder and president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, Powers said she knows how difficult it can be to work in different cultures across international borders. She said that makes the success of the APAA all the more amazing in ensuring orphaned children the love and nurturing that all children need.

"Hats off to you," Powers said. "You may be here to honor me, but I am here to honor you."

After the luncheon and program, participants crowded around Powers for autographs and joint photos.

Among those she met were Marcia Deputat and Jacqueline Bell, the grandmother and mother of two children adopted from Poland into the James and Jacqueline Bell family of Armada Township -- Zbigniew, 6, and Marlena, 4.

"It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful, and I am amazed at how personable she is, and how much she knows about Polish adoptions," said Deputat, a Shelby Township resident.

Powers is currently appearing as Anna in "The King and I" at the Fisher Theater in Detroit.

The tables at the church banquet hall featured calligraphy of movies, TV shows and plays with roles featuring Powers, including "Love Letters," "Annie Get Your Gun," "A View from the Bridge," "Sabrina," "Escape to Athena" and "Hart to Hart."

Born in 1942 into a family from Poland, and a native of Los Angeles where she graduated from Hollywood High School, Powers was featured in "Hart to Hart" in the early 1980s alongside actor Robert Wagner, who played Jonathan Hart, owner and president of Hart Industries, a global conglomerate. Together they portrayed a married couple deeply in love and involved as amateur sleuths in thrilling adventures across the United States and the world.

Powers described to her luncheon audience her encounter with Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, while in Rome for on-location filming of a "Hart to Hart" episode.

She said that she dreamed of meeting the pope and worked on arrangements while in Rome. She said that to her amazement, she was provided with a spot in the front pew at an early morning Mass of a select group with John Paul at the Vatican.

She learned afterward that "Hart to Hart" was a TV show in which he delighted. Powers said that in preparing to meet the pope, she continually practiced what she would say in Polish. To her surprise, she said, he spoke entirely in English with her and at extraordinary length. "I was so excited," she said, "that I can't remember a word he said!"

Said Michael Krolewski of Eastpointe, president of the APAA, "Stefanie's outer beauty is exceeded only by her inner beauty. Giving so many people autographs and pictures, she was a very patient and sincere person."

Krolewski said the contributions of the participants will go for supplies and packages for children in orphanages in Poland.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rabbit Fever (2005)

In September 2004, Stefanie worked on the independent film "Rabbit Fever." Stefanie portrayed Georgia's mum and filming took place in England.

Tagline: Can you feel the buzz?
Plot Outline: A mockumentary about the world's best selling vibrator - the Rabbit.
The film's official site:

January - April 2005 Schedule for The King and I

January 4, 2005 January 9, 2005 Clearwater Mann
January 11, 2005 January 16, 2005 Detroit Fisher
January 18, 2005 January 23, 2005 Detroit Fisher
January 25, 2005 January 30, 2005 Detroit Fisher
February 1, 2005 February 6, 2005 Baltimore Hippodrome
February 8, 2005 February 13, 2005 Baltimore Hippodrome
February 15, 2005 February 20, 2005 Jacksonville Civic Center
February 22, 2005 February 27, 2005 Milwaukee Milwaukee
March 1, 2005 March 3, 2005 Flint, MI
March 4, 2005 March 6, 2005 Wilmington, DE Dupont
March 8, 2005 March 13, 2005 Wilmington Dupont
March 15, 2005 March 20, 2005 Houston Hobby Center
March 22, 2005 March 27, 2005 Houston Hobby Center
March 29, 2005 April 3, 2005 Houston Hobby Center
April 5, 2005 April 10, 2005 LA Pantages
April 12, 2005 April 17, 2005 LA Pantages
April 19, 2005 April 24, 2005 TBD TBD
April 26, 2005 May 1, 2005 Greenville Peace Center

Friday, January 14, 2005

Fan's Account of Seeing Stefanie's TKAI Performance in Detroit, MI

Hi, (This is going to be long.)

I saw the play on Wednesday night, but I'm only just returned to Earth long enough to write about it. It was a fantastic experience, to say the least.

I'd seen the play before with Yul Brynner many years back, and I'd been to several amateur versions since. I've always enjoyed the story, so I was looking forward to what was going to be done with it this time. I wasn't disappointed.

By design, I went by myself. I flew into Detroit from Atlanta on Tuesday night, just in case there were any delays with the weather or anything. There weren't any.

At the theatre it was just me and my journal. I had a seat on the main floor, third row, right, and there were empty seats on either side of me. I could hear every sound, I could see every movement, and every facial nuance without distraction. I took notes throughout the performance, even writing in the dark so that I wouldn't forget a thing.

Stefanie was absolutely gorgeous in her period costumes. She has the stature, poise, elegance, and the hint of playfulness required for Anna's character. Her English accent was consistent throughout the play, and her diction is simply awesome. I was most impressed when she sang with the accent. Her singing voice, in person, was beautiful; moving, so strong and quite expressive, especially on "Hello Young Lovers" and "Shall we Dance". There is one place in the scene with "Shall We Dance" where she's remembering dancing with a lover, the look on her face as she dances by herself while she imagines him, just works at your heart.

When she danced with the king, I found myself swaying with them in my seat. Their movements were so graceful, and they seemed to enjoy themselves so much that I found myself moving with them. I hope nobody saw me.

After the play, I started to chicken out of meeting her. I wasn't sure if I wanted to, I was certain she had to be tired, and quite frankly, I was scared to death. At the last minute, I steeled myself, sought out the correct parties, and went with it. I am so glad that I did.

She was as gracious and hospitable as everyone has said. And she is so physically fit. Toned and enviably slim in her fitted gray sweater and slacks. In the room, there were some couples who were of other nationalities. I watched as she effortlessly switched from English to Spanish to Polish and back to English without missing a breath.

I was too shy to approach her, so I stood near the door and let everyone else go to her while I watched her interact with them. The next thing I knew, she was coming at me. I was wearing this brightly colored jacket, but what she noticed was the small gray ribbon I was wearing on it. After introducing myself, when she asked me about it, I was so grateful. It gave me something to say because I was brain dead at that point. The ribbon was to celebrate the week of the Exceptional Child earlier this year, and I continue to wear it in memory of my nephew who passed away that week in his sleep at age nine from complications of cerebral palsy.

When I told her about that and about how I almost didn't come up because I was too shy, but that I was glad I did because meeting her
was something I'd been wanting to do for a long time, she hugged me for following through. I wasn't expecting that at all. So not only did I meet her, but I got a hug, too!

All in all, it was a great night. I'll remember it for a long, long time.

I'm still writing about it in my journal. :-)


Thursday, January 13, 2005

A crisp and tuneful 'The King and I'

Stefanie Powers shines in heartfelt, well-staged classic musical

For the happiest sight in town these days, you can't beat the procession of cute and graceful children, each robed in a different shimmering color, as they step up to meet their new teacher from England, played by the pretty darned graceful Stefanie Powers, in "The King and I."

"March of the Siamese Children," always a high point of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical, sells itself: Kids walk on stage, playgoers' hearts melt. You can get away with doing only that, but director Baayork Lee goes a step further. Each child does a little something to distinguish himself or herself without distracting from the overall effect. One child, for instance, enters absorbed in a book and barely looks up until reality intrudes.

Lee, who was one of those children in the original 1951 Broadway production, presides over a crisp and engaging production at the Fisher Theatre. Never underestimate crispness. At 2 1/2 hours, Lee's staging is 25 minutes shorter than the 2003 production at the Stratford Festival but it never feels rushed.

But you want to know if Stefanie Powers can sing.

She can, indeed, and she sings for clarity as well as tone. Every word is understandable. And Powers, as teacher Anna Leonowens, feigns a consistent and convincing English accent. As the King of Siam, Ronobir Lahiri, her costar sings for power and clarity, too, and feigns a kind of pan-Asian accent that preserves the king's dignity while allowing the audience to chuckle at his wrangles with English.

This next thing isn't Lahiri's fault, but with his head shaved there isn't anyplace to hide his microphone. The sound is excellent, we know everyone is miked, but it's disconcerting to see.

Powers and Lahiri put forth the respect, affection, stubbornness and clashing values that unite and separate the king and the teacher and, by extension, the Thailand and England of the 1860s as written by Americans in the 1950s.

Powers and Lahiri are not, of course, alone. Luz Lor and Martin Sola sing exquisitely as the ill-fated lovers Tuptim, the king's new concubine, and Lun Tha, who accompanied her from Burma. Catherine MiEun Choi, as Lady Thiang, the king's chief wife, conveys pain and pride with every word and note.

And what songs they get to sing. Powers has "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Getting to Know You," "Hello, Young Lovers" and the humorously furious soliloquy "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You."

In "A Puzzlement," Lahiri ponders, but lightly, how it feels to bear the world on his shoulders. Sola and Lor have two lovely, romantic ballads, "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have Dreamed."

The orchestra plays with special verve -- a little too much, though, drowning out the end of "I Have Dreamed."

Blessedly free of opening-night glitches, "The King and I" seems poised for a joyous reign.

'The King and I'
THREE STARS out of four stars
8 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sun. through Jan. 30

Fisher Theatre
Fisher Building
West Grand Boulevard at Second
Detroit, MI
2 hours, 30 minutes

Fan's Account of Seeing Stefanie's TKAI Performance in Clearwater, FL

Hello everyone. Settle in, as this is going to be a long email :-) as I must tell you all about my fantastic weekend in Clearwater! I arrived Friday at my hotel which was a lovely historic spa hotel located directly on Tampa Bay. As I was checking in, I noticed some small children who looked vaguely familiar to those in the K&I I saw last week in Fort Myers... hmmm....

I drove over to the theater to make sure I knew where I was going that evening while no one was around. I was kind of stopped in the middle of the road blocking the lane, when all the sudden, I saw a large Cadillac behind me, trying to get around me... obviously irritated with my driving... and yes, low and behold, I look over and it's Stefanie! Great first impression, yes? lol... Evidently she was arriving for the matinee.

Later, I arrived for the Friday evening show & it was, as Jackie said, really great! I was in the 3rd row center & I have never seen Stefanie in person... and I must say she really was stunning in all ways. The play was a wonderful production and highlights for me were Stefanie singing the "Young Lovers" song, the scene with the children/"Getting to Know You" and the hilarious "You're Spoiled" scene. I was also fortunate to see the Saturday matinee show and then finally, the Saturday evening show too. I enjoyed all of them but was starting to wonder if I should apply for an understudy part after so much repetition... lol...

Anyhow, prior to the Saturday evening show, I met up with De, Re & Ze for cocktails & great conversation. After the show, we were
still unsure if we were going to be able to see Stefanie backstage, but after a brief wait by the backstage door, we were told by Stefanie's
personal assistant (he said Stef calls him her Roadie) we were indeed "on the list" and were ushered backstage. Hopefully De can fill in some "blanks" for me about our meeting as I was so nervous I nearly passed! Stefanie was so gracious & very friendly. As she shook my hand, she held on to it as asked if we had met before... I said no, I think I'd remember that.. lol... (and then it occurred to me she
could have been thinking of the incident in the parking lot! lol...ugh!) She was wearing a black 3/4 sleeve t-shirt & a pair of snakeskin look pants. We took photos, she signed autographs, she asked us questions about ourselves & spoke about her prior meetings with De & Re, made some mention about an upcoming project in the UK (??), the mini benefit in Baltimore, real estate in Florida (my profession), gave us all hugs & kisses and thanked us all for coming. I know I'm missing a lot about our visit but I was so nervous & lost my notes I made afterwards so I'd remember more... lol...

However, this was not the end of my encounter with Stefanie! We left the theater after our meeting & I drove back to my hotel. As I pulled in, I noticed a Cadillac pull into the valet next to me. I got out of my car, and yes, Stefanie got out of hers right next to me! We looked at each other & I said... "What? Are you following me??" To which she burst into laughter and asked if I was staying at the hotel & I said yes. We spoke about the hotel briefly and I noticed she was staring at my car and started walking around it a bit (It's a new black Mazda RX8) and she started marvelling about how adorable it was & how much she loved it. I told her a bit about it & we chatted for another minute or so. As she turned to go, she turned back to me and said that there was one thing I MUST do before I leave the hotel... I needed to call to the spa desk first thing in the morning & arrange for a massage with Tomas! I said, oh REALLY? and she sighed as she turned to leave and said REALLY.... we laughed & said good night.

But yet again... the following morning, Sunday, I was going out to breakfast around 10, went to get into my car and as I opened the door &
start to get in, Stefanie appears right in front of my car on the sidewalk walking her cute little black Maltese. She said Hi Diana! and waived. FYI, she was wearing a white polo turtleneck (ala Hart to Hart) and black slacks. She looked as beautiful as I've ever seen. I got out of the car and said good morning, she asked if I slept well & she said they were leaving for Detroit in just a few minutes. I pet her dog and he was a real sweetheart too. We spoke a bit about the beautiful area surrounding the hotel & she said how much nicer it was than the concrete developments like a lot of Florida these days. I told her I couldn't agree more. I told her about this massive Oak tree nearby and she was going to take a look before leaving town. We spoke for another minute or two but then said goodbye.

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend. Everyone, be sure to see the show & if you ever meet Stefanie, I can now say, it's almost like
meeting an old friend.


p.s. Tomas was off on Sunday, so I guess that massage will have to wait until my next trip to Clearwater!

Maternity milestone

EAGLE COUNTY - Imagine a pregnant woman in labor having to go all the way to Denver to have her baby.

Not too long ago, that's exactly what most expectant parents in Eagle County had to do.

That's why Jan. 10, 1980 - 25 years ago Monday - is of particular importance to the Vail Valley Medical Center and health care in Eagle County. It was the first time a baby was born in Vail on purpose.

"Prior to that, babies that were born here were on stormy nights when they couldn't get down to Denver," said Dr. Kent Petrie.

Petrie was the physician who delivered the Vail Valley Medical Center's first baby - a boy named Cody Merle Kuehl. His birth to parents Barbara and Randy Kuehl of Edwards was such a big deal to the community then that hospital staff called in periodic updates to a local radio station deejay, who announced the mother's cervical dilation over the airwaves.

"This was before patient confidentiality laws," Petrie said.

Things have changed since then. Petrie, who moved here in late 1979, notes how much the local hospital has grown in size and advanced in technology. But that day in January, back when the hospital was a clinic and it had less than 20 beds, is a fond memory for veteran staff.

"This town made it up to be such a big deal," said Anne Robinson, a perinatal educator for the hospital.

A day of many firsts

Petrie started at the Vail Hospital, as it was called then, in August of 1979. It was his first medical practice after finishing his residency in St. Paul, Minn. He was immediately assigned to set up a maternity care center at the hospital.

"I was kind of excited about it," he said.

There was one birthing room, which was considered state-of-the-art at the time, Robinson said. Even in Denver, women still were giving birth in operating rooms.

The hospital still didn't have an obstetrician at this time (one came on year later), so Petrie was responsible for deliveries. The hospital was not equipped to deal with Caesarian sections or high-risk deliveries, either.

The Kuehl baby was not only the hospital's first planned delivery, it was the Kuehls' first baby. Cody Kuehl was first to become a third-generation Eagle Countian; his grandmother, Carol Favale, also lived in Edwards. It was Petrie's first official delivery, too.

The maternity care center opened Jan. 1, 1980. Nine days passed. Then Barbara Kuehl went into labor.

"The excitement spread through the hospital and the valley," Petrie said. "We were all a little nervous. It made me pretty nervous."

Lights, camera, action

Making things even more exciting - or nerve-wracking - was that the TV show "Hart to Hart" was filming an episode in the Vail hospital.

The film crews and the show's stars, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, even got caught up in the excitement. The stars signed autographs for the family once the baby was born, Robinson said.

The show's impact on the hospital was long lasting.

"The hospital didn't have an official sign on West Meadow Drive," Petrie said. "So the crews quickly made a nice sign. That sign stayed up for at least six months. We never took it down until the snow melted."

The main event

Cody Merle Kuehl was born at 2:40 p.m. on Jan. 10, 1980. His arrival made the front page of the now-defunct Vail Villager and was covered by the Vail Trail.

"It went very smoothly," Petrie is quoted as saying in the Vail Trail article.

There were 70 births in the hospital that year, Robinson said.

That number has grown considerably over the years.

"We had 70 births last month," Petrie said.

Business is booming at the hospital's ever-more-advanced maternity ward. Hospital official say there were 600 births in 2004.

But that day in 1980 had a significant impact on Petrie, who planned only to stay a year in Vail.

"I was under the impression that I would just see tourists with orthopedic injuries from skiing, or with sore throats," he said. "That was very quickly changed when experiences like caring for a family that really was a three-generation family in town.

"I think that experience early on was that Vail really was a wonderful place to live," he said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"The King and I" in Detroit

TV star Stefanie Powers headlines Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King & I" starting tonight at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. The musical runs Tuesdays through Sundays through Jan. 30. Details: (313) 872-1000.

'King and I' has Powers whistling a happy tune

It's good to be the king. It's better to be Stefanie Powers.

Powers is the "I" in the touring production of "The King and I" that opens Tuesday at the Fisher Theatre; she's also the one who gets her name listed above the title in this production.

That's because she is someone you've heard of, very likely from the TV series "Hart to Hart" (1979-84) in which Powers and Robert Wagner played a jet-setting couple with a flair for solving crimes.

Powers gets around in real life, too, with homes in Kenya, England, and her native California. Right now, however, she's more interested in talking about how often she'll get to enjoy Polish food while she's in Detroit. She says she's looking forward to lots of homemade pierogi. "I hope we'll get care packages from the Polish community."

Powers, 62, was born Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz, and you should hear her rattle her name off.

You should hear her sing, too, she says.

"I started life as a dancer who could sing. I loved singing. Anybody who has ever sung loves singing. I never had a chance to do it in my career in film." That didn't stop her, though. She says that from time to time, she would perform in regional theater to give her pipes a workout: short runs of "Annie, Get Your Gun," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "Oliver!"

In 1991 in London, she got the opportunity to perform in an original musical, a show called "Matador." It ran for only three months, but it launched Powers' recent career in stage musicals. She played Anna in "The King and I" in London, and it ran for nearly two years. Ronobir Lahiri, another American, played the king in the London production. He's playing the same role in the current tour.

One of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's two great American musicals with no American characters, "The King and I" is loosely based on the true story of Anna Leonowens, a British widow in the 1860s who spent five years in Siam (now Thailand) as a tutor to the king's children.

Leonowens wrote a book about her experiences, "The English Governess at the Court of Siam," that was published in 1870. It inspired Margaret Landon's 1943 novel, "Anna and the King of Siam," which inspired both the 1946 movie of the same name and Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1951 musical.

Although the historical Anna was in her 20s when she took the job in Bangkok, older actresses often play her in the musical. Gertrude Lawrence was 52 when she originated the role on Broadway. Sandy Duncan, 58, immediately preceded Powers in the tour. Powers began playing Anna last week, in Florida.

"I love her, this woman alone against adversity," Powers says of Anna. "Here she was, coming from a British colonial background. She very much had the comforts and privileges of what colonials were afforded. Once she was disenfranchised by the death of her husband, she really was lost.

"When this opportunity came up, getting a job was not what ladies did. Her alternative was to go back to Dickensian England."

No wonder Anna whistles to cover up her fear as the musical opens. The song she sings, "I Whistle a Happy Tune," is among several from the show that have become classics, the others being "Hello, Young Lovers," "Getting to Know You," "I Have Dreamed" and "Shall We Dance?"

Powers views "The King and I" not so much as a musical but as "drama set to music, because the story, the words Oscar Hammerstein wrote, was so significant." Besides portraying a clash of cultures, the script (Hammerstein wrote the script and the lyrics) looks at slavery, women's rights and international politics. "The content of the book as it segues into the lyrics are some of the most powerful storytelling," Powers says.

"It's a fascinating period. The king they're speaking of was the man responsible for opening Thailand to the world. He saved it from becoming a colony by becoming a trading partner" with other nations, Powers says.

Powers has obviously done some reading. She has also visited Thailand: The last time she was there, she was seated at dinner next to the great-grandson of the Kralahome (or prime minister) depicted in the musical.

Another trip to that part of the world may be in Powers' future. The American "King and I" tour is scheduled to last 10 more months. After that, "It is said we're in negotiations to go to Japan."

She sounds pleased.

(Oh. The other great R&H musical with no American characters would be "The Sound of Music.")

'The King and I'
Opens Tuesday

8 p.m. Tue.-Fri.,
2 & 8 p.m. Sat.,
2 & 7:30 p.m. Sun.

Through Jan. 30

Fisher Theatre
Fisher Building
West Grand Boulevard at Second



Saturday, January 08, 2005

Powers Regally Leads Fine King and I Revival

CLEARWATER - The world has changed since ""The King and I' premiered on Broadway in March 1951.

But the play, based loosely on Margaret Langdon's book about a Welsh widow employed by the King of Siam in the 1860s, remains a milestone in musical theater. With its cross-cultural humor, tragic overtones and timeless songs, it has never fallen from favor.

The challenge for any big-ticket touring production, therefore, is to freshen familiar material without defacing the magnificent original work of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Frankly, if we had to pick a star who could lead a successful, faithful revival, Stefanie Powers might not come immediately to mind. Those who grew up watching her on ""The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.' and ""Hart to Hart' would never guess that the agile, auburn-haired actress also possesses first-class stage presence and singing skills.

But Powers is perfect as Anna Leonowens, who arrives in Bangkok telling her son Louis (Patrick Minor, a young Mississippian with a creditable British accent) to ""Whistle a Happy Tune' when facing uncertainty.

Expecting her own house and a respected teaching position, Anna discovers a country where women have no standing and the ruler is an egotistic dictator. Ronobir Lahiri doesn't try to emulate the famous Yul Brynner characterization of the King. Instead, he creates a feisty, bantamweight version with jumpier body language and a more melodious voice.

There's more to this production than the pleasing interplay between Anna and the King. The key subplot, for example, features Luz Lor … a sparkling soprano … as the heartbroken Tuptim. Her duets with her forbidden Burmese lover, Lun Tha (Martin Sola) … ""We Kiss in a Shadow' and ""I Have Dreamed' … remind us how many tuneful highlights are packed into this show.

You can forget the show-biz maxim that one ought not work with children. The youngsters here are adorable and adept in their roles as the King's offspring who learn (to his chagrin) that there is a larger world beyond his realm. ""The March of the Siamese Children' introduces them in a swirl of cute costumes, and their second-act interpretation of ""Uncle Tom's Cabin' is a balletic delight.

The climactic applause of the evening, of course, is reserved for Anna and her slowly civilizing employer as they spin to the strains of ""Shall We Dance?'

Even if you know the story and songs, this production deserves a visit. Wondrously detailed wardrobes are complemented by ornate, efficient scenic paintings, and conductor Kep Kaeppeler's modest-size orchestra fills the hall with delicious arrangements.

Although she's undeniably the star, Powers performs graciously as an ensemble player. In a brief curtain call speech, she thanked the audience for giving the company a good start on a 10-month tour.

She added, ""Thailand [formerly Siam] today is in great need,' and she asked patrons to contribute to tsunami relief on their way out. ""I will match it personally,' she pledged.

A little more than $14,000 was raised on opening night.


WHAT: The timeless musical love story between a powerful king and a determined governess

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater

TICKETS: $37, $45, $47, $55, $57 and $65; (727) 791-7400

Actress couldn't be happier as lead in 'The King and I'

For actress Stefanie Powers, it doesn't get much better than this.

Powers, 62, best known for her role as Jennifer Hart in television's "Hart to Hart" opposite Robert Wagner, is filling her days and nights as Anna in the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical "The King and I." She couldn't be happier.

"If you want to do musical theater, which I love to do, there is hardly a better show and hardly a better part," Powers gushed, in a telephone interview from rehearsals in Fort Myers, Fla.

The show, a new production of the family friendly musical, visits Detroit's Fisher Theatre Jan. 11-30, where Powers also starred with Wagner in "Love Letters" several years ago.

"I'm very happy to be coming to Detroit. But it's cold!" she said, munching on her lunch as she spoke. The actress, otherwise known for her glamour and grace, was pressed for time.

Speaking of food, she's a fan of Detroit for that very reason. Powers, a proud Pole born Stefania Federkiewicz, can't wait to visit Hamtramck for the great Polish food.

Powers is also quite excited about this new production, namely because it's one much closer in theme and tone to the original 1946 film "Anna and the King of Siam," the inspiration for the original musical.

Powers played Anna before in a 2002 British touring version of the show, but welcomes the changes this production brings. The character Anna takes front and center this time around, making it a more authentic representation of what she says Rodgers and Hammerstein initially set out to do. It tells the story of English widow Anna Leonowens, the real-life inspiration for the bestselling 1944 novel, "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon.

The musical, set in the 1860s in the capital city of Bangkok, is essentially a love story between a powerful, stubborn king, and a determined governess, Anna, whom he hires to educate his many children.

Expect opulent settings, gorgeous costumes and standards such as "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance?"

"This is a lovely company with some wonderfully talented people," Powers said.

Among them is director Baayork Lee, who actually played a child of the king in the original Broadway production from 1951.

Choreographer Susan Kikuchi is the daughter of Yuriko Kikuchi, a lead dancer from that 1951 production and choreographer of the recent revival.

"Here we are, all these years later," Powers added. "We are putting together a production that resembles much more the original show.

"We think of it as a freshly restored version, and that's what we're doing."

She calls the musical the best of the best, pointing to other works by famed composer Rodgers and lyricist Hammerstein as well.

"This is the American art form, the American style musical show. Nobody did it better," she said.

When she isn't working in musicals and plays -- "You think of nothing else. All life stops," she said of theater -- she's busy at the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, a public charity dedicated to the preservation of wild animals in Kenya.

"It's my baby," she said.

She helped found the organization for Holden, a close companion who passed away in 1981, and she still serves as president.

Between acting, working with that organization, and balancing homes in Los Angeles, London and Kenya, Powers also found time to record her debut CD, the first in a career that began in film work when she was just 15 years old.

"On the Same Page," a jazz album of American standards, was released in 2003.

"It's just a love affair of music that we put together with friends," she said.

Tickets for "The King and I," Jan. 11-30 at Detroit's Fisher Theatre, are $30.50 to $68, and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, and the Fisher Theatre Box Office, online at or To charge by phone, call (248) 645-6666.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Stefanie at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Actress Stefanie Powers, starring as Anna in a local version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's 'The King and I,' holds up 7-year-old cast member Daphne Chen to meet Dolly, a reticulated giraffe at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005 in Tampa, Fla.

Anna and the King reign at the Fisher

Stefanie Powers in "The King and I"

Classical musical 'The King and I' launches national tour in Detroit on Tuesday.

Stefanie Powers is fueling up for the long tour of "The King and I" that opens Tuesday at the Fisher Theatre. Actually, she's munching lunch while talking on the phone in Ft. Myers, Fla., during a rehearsal break. In a few days, Powers and the rest of the company would hit the road for Detroit to kick off a 10-month run of this treasured Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which the leading lady calls "the finest of the finest."

"The King and I" has remained a fixture and reference point among American musicals since its Broadway premiere in 1951, with the then little-known Yul Brynner as the King of Siam and the celebrated but terminally ill Gertrude Lawrence as the English school teacher Anna Leonowens, whose arrival at the Siamese court brings profound change to both the royal family and Anna herself.

"If you're a real fan of musical theater, you have to love this show," says Powers, who recently finished an extended run as Anna in England.

"And if we want to do anything to encourage an interest in the theater among young people, to give them a solid understanding of the best, we should steer them to 'The King and I.' It's the whole package - a powerful story, fantastic lyrics, extraordinary dialogue and music that's sheer bliss to listen to."

That bliss wafts through such classic songs as "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello, Young Lovers," "We Kiss in a Shadow," "Shall We Dance?" and "Getting to Know You."

Yet, despite the romantic drift of its tunes, "The King and I" isn't exactly a love story. Or rather, says Powers, it's a story about transcendent love.

"It's an unrealized love. It's passion and love of an aesthetic nature that's completed by the audience. It's the best of all fantasies - falling in love with the impossible. It spins a fabulous dream. "

Based on Margaret Landon's 1944 historical novel, "The King and I" recalls how Anna Lowenowens accepts an invitation to the court of 1860s Siam - modern Thailand - as tutor to the King's numerous children, the royal family of princes and princesses. The relationship between the willful King and the democratic though likewise resolute Anna, who also happens to be a woman ahead of her time on the subject of gender equality, is testy from the start.

But slowly they come to discover the merits in each other. This strange, strong-minded woman is someone with whom the King can discuss science, history and even current politics. Anna comes to admire the King's strength of character and his wish to protect the cultural integrity his people from the influence of British dominion. Meanwhile, a conventional love story plays out in the background, a doomed relationship between two young people at court. If that affair ends bitterly, the conclusion of Anna's alliance with the King is bittersweet. He dies, imploring Anna to stay on and help his son bring Siam into the modern world.

Not incidentally, this old-fashioned story is played out in the form of an old-fashioned musical. That's part of what Powers loves about it.

"The production we're doing is a refreshing return to the original in many ways," she says. "For one thing, it restores Anna to the center of the story. Gertrude Lawrence commissioned the play. It was written for her. She was a huge star. Yul Brynner was unknown. Tragically, she died of cancer a short time into the run.

"Over the years, a great deal of the original dialogue was cut or altered, and here it is restored to its original balance and beauty. And I might point out that our director (Baayork Lee) was a child actor in the original production, and the mother of our choreographer (Susan Kikuchi) was the lead dancer in the original show. All that supercharges this production with a special vitality."

The director shares Powers' enchantment with "The King and I" as an old-school masterpiece.

"We're in the 21st century doing an old musical," says Baayork Lee. "It's not 'Grease' and it's not `Chorus Line.'" Lee speaks from ample experience. She also was in the original production of "Chorus Line" - no longer a child actor by then - and has been involved with that show as actor and director for more than three decades.

"In `Chorus Line,' you have no costumes, no intermission and characters speaking off the cuff. `The King and I' is thoroughly structured. It has to be done as a period piece - with the full orchestra, the gorgeous costumes, the dancing. This isn't a show you do in loafers. `The King and I' is what a musical was like in the '50s. "

Like Powers, the director sees this show as a special kind of love story. "It's about two people, a man and a woman," Lee says. "It happens to be Siam in the 19th century, but it could take place any time or anywhere. You don't have to be doing the act to be in love. There is feeling there. I was five years old watching Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, and I still remember how strong their presence was - the powerful bond they formed between Anna and the King.

"The King has many wives, but not one as knowledgeable as Anna. He asks her to write letters for him. She helps him. She is his equal."

Powers adds amen to that.

"That's part of the attraction for so many actresses who have played Anna," she says. "In all of musical theater, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the greatest roles that women have ever had.

"And this is real theater, real drama. Think about it. You're in the middle of a musical and there's only one number sung by a principal actor in the entire second act. And nobody notices that fact. We're talking about a great book."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Win Tickets To 'King And I' At Fisher Theater

Local 4, and the Fisher Theater want to send you and a guest to see "The King And I" at Detroit's Fisher Theater

Two pairs of tickets will be awarded to two winners for the 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11 show.

The show stars Stefanie Powers.

East meets West in this timeless love story between a powerful, stubborn king and a determined governess. It's a lavish production filled with splendid pageantry, a dazzling score and exquisite dancing. Spectacular sets and costumes transform you to the strange and exotic world that Anna and her son struggle to become a part of.

Tickets are still available for "The King and I," which runs through Jan. 30 at the Fisher Theater.

Tuesday - Saturday at 8:00pm
Sunday Evenings at 7:30pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm
SPECIAL PERFORMANCE: There will be a sign interpreted performance of the King & I for the deaf community on January 18, 2005, at 8:00pm.

Contest Overview:

Contest Rules

  • By submitting an application to this contest, sponsored by Local 4 and, the participant acknowledges and agrees to all of the contest rules.

  • Entrants may enter once per contest, unless otherwise noted.

  • Entrants must be 21 years or older.

  • Transfer of prizes is strictly prohibited.

  • Any federal, state and local tax levied on the prize shall be the sole responsibility of the recipient.

  • Prize only includes tickets for two and has no cash value. All other incidentals are paid by winner including parking, food and drink, etc.

  • Winners will be contacted by telephone Monday, Jan. 10 after 5 p.m. Messages will not be left on answering machines and Caller I.D. will not be accepted as winning notification. Winners must be present at time of telephone call to receive winning notification.

  • Winners names will not be posted. Winners will pick up tickets at Will Call window at the Fisher.

  • Tickets are only good for Tuesday show and cannot be traded for any other ticket.

  • Acceptance of the prize offered constitutes permission to use the winners' names and/or likenesses for advertising/trade purposes without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

  • The sponsor assumes no responsibility or liability for damages, losses or injuries resulting from use of or acceptance of any prize. Winners must agree to release all participating sponsors from any and all liability for injuries sustained through the use of the prize.

  • The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.

  • All federal, state and local laws apply. Receipt of all prizes shall be conditioned upon compliance with any applicable federal, state and local laws.

  • The sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to interpret compliance with the letter and intent of these rules, and to disqualify any applicant deemed to have violated these rules or to have filled out any application incorrectly at any time prior to the distribution of prizes.

  • Immediate family members and employees of WDIV, Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc., or Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc., Nederlander Group and Fisher Theater, and each of their respective parent companies, agents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and advertising agencies, are not eligible.

Powers leads a delightful 'King' series

The King and I is more than a half-century old, but it doesn't seem dated.

That's not to say it isn't showing its age. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is very much a product of its time. But it's such a magnificent piece of theater that the years have only enriched it.

Wednesday night, The King and I received worthy treatment with a lively and stunningly crafted production at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

It was the first performance of a restaged national tour starring Stefanie Powers, a veteran of musical theater who's nonetheless often considered a television star. Sandy Duncan has been playing Anna for the past several months; Powers will take the role for the rest of this year.

On opening night, Powers proved to be an intensely appealing presence on stage, so much so that her singing, which is only adequate here, is a nonissue. She's full of grace, energy and charm and summons the subtlety, strength and depth that the role demands.

(In a speech after the performance, Powers announced that she would match any donations audience members made for tsunami victims. Ruth Eckerd Hall officials said the total amount raised opening night, including Powers' contribution, was more than $14,000.)

Noted Broadway director Baayork Lee (who made her stage debut at age 5 in the original production of The King and I) has created a rich and textured production, highlighted by almost unbelievably gorgeous sets (by Kenneth Foy) and costumes (by Roger Kirk). A meticulous performance by an 18-piece pit orchestra lays a perfect foundation for the performances.

And it's impossible not to be drawn to the ensemble actors, including a bunch of little kids who are just so darn cute that you want to run up on stage and hug them to death.

There are some shortcomings. Most noticeable on opening night was a tinny and unnatural quality to the voices, and even a few hints of feedback from the body microphones. One can hope that those problems will be corrected after the first performance in the theater.

A more substantial problem was the performance of Catherine MiEun Choi as Lady Thiang. Her dialogue was almost impossible to understand and her operatic singing voice was annoying. It was especially problematic because Lady Thiang's one big number, the relatively obscure Something Wonderful, is one of the show's most beautiful songs.

Ronobir Lahiri, as the King, has a powerful voice and a commanding stage persona. At times he seems to be imitating the classic performance of the role, by Yul Brynner. But it's hard to imagine how any actor could take on that role without summoning Brynner's spirit.

Best of all, there's the play and the songs. Like other Rodgers and Hammerstein shows of its era, it's full of songs that stick in your head and delivers a story that fills your heart.

REVIEW: The King and I, 8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets are $37-$65. Call (727) 791-7400 or go to

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Heart to heart, with Stefanie Powers

The actor, playing Anna in The King and I, says she hopes to introduce the 53-year-old musical to a new generation.

Stefanie Powers is so nice, so disarmingly gracious, that you hate to ask her the question.

Here she is, taking a phone call during a quick break in rehearsing for The King and I. She apologizes for having to eat lunch while she's talking, but there's just no time to waste. Still, she sounds genuinely thrilled to talk about the show.

So, how can the question be posed delicately? Powers' first major film role, in Experiment in Terror, was in 1962, and she played a teenager. How is it, four decades later, at 62, to play governess Anna, who faces adversity by whistling a happy tune?

"Hmmm," she says. "I don't really know how to answer that question. I certainly don't get up every morning thinking about my age. I don't believe in numbers. If you think about it, if you let it affect your choices, then you just limit yourself. And I don't believe in doing that."

What really matters, she says, is that the show and the role are simply fantastic. Anyone would be thrilled to take on the challenge.

"I would hope we'll reach a new generation and introduce them to The King and I," Powers says. "This is everything that the great book musicals were all about. And it's not just the beautiful songs, it's the content of the songs. They researched the history and the period and the culture, and it shows in the songs."

"They" are Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, who created The King and I based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who had served as governess to the king of Siam's throng of children.

"Gertrude Lawrence originally brought the story to Cole Porter, and when he didn't want to do it, she brought it to Rodgers and Hammerstein," Powers says.

For all the chirpiness of some of her songs, Anna has always been played by mature actors in major productions. Lawrence was 52 when The King and I premiered on Broadway in 1951, with Yul Brynner, 17 years her junior, as the king.

The show was immediately recognized as a milestone and is still often considered Rodgers and Hammerstein's best musical. Several of its songs - I Have Dreamed, Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance - are familiar to people who have never seen the show or 1956 movie with Brynner and 35-year-old Deborah Kerr as Anna.

The current tour has been on the road since June, with Sandy Duncan, 58, as Anna. Powers, who played the role for a British tour a few years back, has signed on to play Anna until December 2005.

"It was always planned that I would take over the role in 2005," she says. "I was just doing other things."

Besides, she says, the show is being retooled. Director Baayork Lee (who made her Broadway debut as one of the children in the original production of The King and I) is giving the production a makeover for the new year, the new star and the new leg of the tour.

"It's being restaged," Powers says, "so people who saw it in Fort Myers and want to make the drive up to see it again will see something a little different."

People who don't make it to Ruth Eckerd Hall for the show might get a glimpse of Powers and other cast members at Busch Gardens.

Powers is widely known for her work with wildlife. She runs the William Holden Wildlife Foundation in Kenya and has championed a number of animal-related causes.

She has a special fondness for the reticulated giraffes in Busch Gardens.

"Whenever I'm in your part of the country, I go to Busch Gardens to visit the reticulated giraffes," she said. "I was in on the capture of the original giraffes, so I always come by to see them. I call them "my giraffes.' "

Some of the Busch Gardens giraffes are ones Powers helped relocate; others are descendants of those giraffes.

The King and I cast includes dozens of children who tour with the company, so Powers' visit to the theme park will amount to something like a class field trip.

"I'm bringing the kids from the cast," she said. "We're all going to feed the giraffes."


The King and I, 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 2 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets $27-$65. 727 791-7400;