FRESNO — The Central Valley will welcome “The King and I” — and you, and anyone else who loves classic musicals.
The revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” will make its Central Valley premier at the Saroyan Theatre for two performances Jan.15-16.
Actor Dongwoo Kang, who plays Lun Tha, is making his first tour of the states with the production. Kang moved to America in the fall of 2016 to follow his dream of performing on stage.
“After graduation, I got this show, “The King and I. It was still rough to do the singing since English is my second language,” he said.
Kang moved from his home in Seoul, South Korea to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, finding himself living in a new country he had never so much as visited before.
“My first impressions [of New York] were the yellow cabs,” Kang joked. “But I was scared and I had anxiety, but I kept thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to do what I need to do to get into musical theater.”
The actor, who participated in the 12th annual Broadway Rising Stars Concert last year is now touring the United States for his time, as both traveling artist and sight-seer.
“Every single day is a highlight. Every day is special to me because just traveling around and singing around is a dream come true,” he said from Oregon, where the musical is currently being staged.
Kang had never seen the stage version of “The King and I,” though he had seen the 1956 film version as a child, though he didn’t really care for it. A friend of his who, at the time, was in the Tony Award-winning Broadway production inspired him to watch clips from the stage show and motivated him to audition for the touring company.
Already having been on the road for several weeks, the “King and I” tour continues through May, traveling onto Nevada, Utah and then the Midwest after its Central Valley run next week.
The musical is based on the novel, “Anna and the King of Siam,” itself an adaptation of the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam. The fifth musical by legendary duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, the musical’s 2015 revival earned four Tony Awards.
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of an unconventional relationship that develops between the King and the British teacher, as well as the story of Kang’s Lun Tha character and his secret love affair with an enslaved woman.
The culture clash is something that may feel as modern as it feels classical. Bartlett Sher, director of the 2015 Broadway production said in a release, “Great classics come back to us when we need them the most. In order to live up to the scale of its ambition, we have to go both backward and forward in time. It’s like having one foot in the past as deeply as we can, one foot in the present, and our eyes looking out as far ahead as we can to see how it resonates.”
The musical features classic Broadway tunes that include, “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune” and “Hello Young Lovers.”
Tickets are on sale now and start at $50.