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The King and I

From Academic Kids

The King and I is a musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, with a script based on Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. The plot comes from the autobiographical story of Anna Leonowens, who became governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The musical opened on Broadway on March 29, 1951 and starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, and a then mostly unknown Yul Brynner as the King. The show was filmed in 1956 with Brynner re-creating his role opposite Deborah Kerr. Brynner won an Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal, and Kerr was nominated as Best Actress. Brynner reprised the role twice on Broadway in 1977 and 1985, and in a short-lived TV sitcom in 1972, Anna and the King.

A television series, Anna and the King, was created in 1972, giving credit to Margaret Landon for the creation.

In 1946, Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne starred in the film Anna and the King of Siam; and in 1999, 20th Century Fox released a non-musical remake, named Anna and the King. This version starred Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat. The two non-musical versions contain considerable variations from the original stories, from the musical, and from one another.

Also in 1999, an animated version of The King and I was released by Warner Bros.; it was also a musical, but except for using some of the songs, it was unrelated to the Rodgers and Hammerstein version.

Thai attitudes

All the filmed versions of The King and I are banned in Thailand, and the stage version has never been produced there. The Thai government regards the story as historically inaccurate (which it certainly is), and as an insult to the memory of King Mongkut, and thus offensive to all Thais. Since the films have never been shown in Thailand, however, it is hard to know how many Thais would really be offended by them.

In 1997 the Thai Ambassador to the United States, Nitya Pibulsonggram, wrote to the Boston Herald: "The Thai people find The King and I in its movie and Broadway play forms offensive because it caricatures His Majesty King Mongkut in such a denigrating and condescending manner... It is stunning to sit through a performance of The King and I and to see not only the King, but all the Thai people, portrayed... as childlike, simple, and hopelessly unable to cope with the arrival of westerners. The British, however, are portrayed as superior beings, gently trying to uplift their na´ve hosts. The wonderful music and the visual treats of the production camouflage the real insult that lies at the core of the play."

Act One

Anna arrives in Siam from Singapore, with her young son Louis. When Louis sees the kralahome or prime minister of Siam approaching their boat he becomes afraid. His mother teaches him how to conquer his fears in "I Whistle a Happy Tune". She is then greeted by the kralahome. There is a discrepancy about her house, which was promised to her. "A brick residence adjoining the royal palace" are the exact words. The kralahome takes her to the king. Meanwhile at the palace an emissary from Burma, Lun Tha, presents to the king a gift of a young girl named Tuptim. When the emissary leaves she sings of her new "Lord and Master", however in the song she reveals that she and Lun Tha are secretly in love. Anna arrives and immediately confronts the king about her house. He dismisses her and tells her to talk to his wives, of which he has many. Anna, after talking to the wives, is amazed at their thinking that all woman are more lowly than men. Anna then speaks of her deceased husband to Lady Thiang, the kings head wife, in "Hello Young Lovers." The king then rushes in to announce that the royal children are ready for presentment. During the "March of the Siamese Children" all the king's children show respect to the king and to Anna. Also during this we are introduced to Chaufa Chulalongkorn, Lady Thiang's son and heir to the throne. Anna is so enchanted by the children she chooses to stay, despite the problem about her house. A couple months later Chulalongkorn is stopped by his father and asked to recite what he has been learning. He then recites a proverb about a house, telling us that Anna is still pressing the matter of her house. He then tells that they learned about how the Earth spins on its axis but he dismiss the idea as false because he has been taught something different. He is then horrified when his father is not sure about what is the truth, since the king is supposed to know everything. He leaves and the king cries out about his vexation and uncertainty in "A Puzzlement". We are then brought to the schoolroom where Anna is teaching the children. We learn that Anna has been enjoying teaching in Siam with "Getting to Know You." When Anna tries to teach the children about snow, they refuse to believe. An uproar then ensures. The king comes rushing in, and instantly quiets his children and wives. He begins to lecture Anna, and in the lecture he repromands Anna for onlt teaching his children about a house. An arguement follows and Anna threatens to return to England unless she is given a house. This provokes a near fight between Louis and Chulalongkorn, who are now best of friends. That fight is quickly broken up. Anna then accuses the king of being a promise breaker which only provokes him more. Anna and Louis run out and the king is left to wonder about his policies. That same day the prince and Anna's son meet in a corridor where they make up. They then start discussing what make their parents fight, even though they do not htink their parents are sure about their conclusions in "Reprise: A Puzzlement". Later that night Anna storms into her bedroom, fuming about the king in "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?". As she is getting ready for bed Lady Thiang comes to her room. Lady Thiang says that the king was deeply hurt by what Anna said in the schoolroom that day. Since the king has not sent for her she refuses to go. Lady Thiang then reveals that she knows about Tuptim and Lun Tha. Also, she says that the palace has learned that some people are telling Queen Victoria that the king is a barbarian and wish to make Siam a protectorate. She then tells of the kings many shortcomings, but big heart in, what will soon become the theme of the musical, "Something Wonderful". This convinces Anna who heads off to see the king.

External links

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