Saturday, September 17, 2005

Beloved 'King and I' characters, etcetera, etcetera, are back onstage at the 5th

It's been a while since a touring production of "The King and I" came through Seattle. One problem is that you need an exotic-looking leading man who can pass for an 1860s Siamese autocrat.

The late Yul Brynner was spectacularly successful in this role when the show opened on Broadway in 1951. And he starred in the 1956 film and in various stage revivals, including the road show that played Seattle some 20 years ago.

The late Rudolf Nureyev, best known as a sensational Soviet-turned-American ballet dancer, played the king in a touring production that came to Seattle in 1989.

The "King and I" that opens Thursday at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre features in the title role Ronobir Lahiri, a New York actor with Bollywood ties.

The other character referred to in the title is played by film and TV veteran Stefanie Powers. She co-stars with Lahiri as Anna Leonowens, a Welsh widow who goes to Siam -- now known as Thailand -- to take a job in Bangkok as tutor to the polygamous King Mongkut's many children.

Leonowens was a real person. Margaret Langdon wrote a novel based on her journals. It was published in 1944.

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