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State Theatre New Jersey

Scene Notes

Fun Facts About The King and I

This Broadway season the timeless production of Rodgers & Hammerstien's The King and I will be coming to State Theatre New Jersey! The story of an English school teacher and her unconventional relationship with the King of Siam takes you on a charming journey back in time to Thailand in the early 1860's. As one of the best loved musicals of the 20th century, The King and I is a breathtaking production rich with history. Below are some show-stopping facts about this classic musical! 

  1. The King and I is based on a true story loosely taken from Anna Leonowens' memoirs. 
  2. The film was (and still is) banned in Thailand as it was deemed disrespectful to the monarchy.
  3. The King of Siam in real life had 19 wives.
  4. In real life, there is no evidence of any romantic attachment between  Anna Leonowens and the King.
  5. Anna Leonowens was born Anna Harriette Edwards in Ahmadnagar, India in 1831. Her father was a British sergeant, and her mother was half-British and half-Indian. She posed as a British woman in order to get the job in Siam. 
  6. The King and I opened at Broadway's St. James Theatre on March 28, 1951 where it ran 1,246 performances. 
  7. Through the initial run and several revivals, Yul Brynner performed the role of the King more than 4,600 times.
  8. A dramatic film adaptation released in 1999 starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat was also banned in Thailand, despite consultation with the Royal family and government during its production.
  9. Gertrude Lawrence had to wear costume gowns that weighed up to 75 kg as Anna in the original Broadway production, and her character danced a total of 3.9 mi in every performance, eight shows a week. She was buried in one of her costumes from the show.
  10. The real King of Siam became a multi-lingual scholar and rose to become a Buddhist High Priest, studying French, English, and Latin with western missionaries. He was also a mathematician and an astronomer, and he set up Siam's first printing press, to print in both English and Siamese. While he was a priest he reformed Buddhism, by setting up a reform movement within the church and re-organizing the entire church while he was a high priest.
  11. The love between the two protagonists (Anna and the King) had to be entirely subtextual in efforts to not cause problems with Thailand. This is why the love songs belong to a different couple in the play. 
  12. King Mongkut in total had 82 children.
  13. Yul Brynner, the originally cast King of Siam, became so closely associated with the performance of the King that many people today incorrectly assume that he had Asian heritage.
  14. The musical The King and I is based on a fictional novel by Margaret Landon, who reimagined Anna Leonowens' memoirs: The English Governess at the Siamese Court.
  15. Both Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s wives had read Anna's memoir and urged their husbands to write an adaptation. Neither saw the potential in the novel—it wasn’t until they saw a 1946 film adaptation of a stage play that they began to consider it.

By Heather Wharton

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