FOSTORIA - The country of Siam in the 1860s is the setting for the musical, "The King and I," being staged this weekend at Fostoria High School. Based on a true story, the show includes many favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, including "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello, Young Lovers," "I Have Dreamed," "We Kiss in a Shadow," "Shall We Dance" and "Getting to Know You."
In the lead roles are Makenzie Nelson as the English school teacher, Anna, and Hunter Kauffman as the King of Siam. Both are well-cast.
As the leader of his nation, the king sees the value of education for his multiple wives and 67 children. At the same time, the male-dominated culture does not give women positions of power.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
(From left) the King of Siam, Lady Tuptim and Anna are shown in a scene from “The King and I.” They are played, respectively, by Hunter Kauffman, Samantha Rusk and Makensie Nelson.
The outspoken and intelligent Anna surprises him. On her part, Anna can see the king's arrogance is softened by obvious love for his offspring and concern for his country.
Alaina Conlin is cast as Lady Thiang, the head wife, whose son, Prince Chulalongkorn, is to be king one day. Tim Murray plays the prince with a balance of pride and compassion. Portraying the other wives are Raimi Bernal, Aubrey Faeth, Hannah Hopple, Chelsea Kindle, Morgan Liseke, Misty Lovejoy, Presley Medina, Raissa Napier, Brianna Nowicki, Hannah Russell, Amani Seaburn, Madi Tate and Sabra Tate.
A conflict arises early on when a young woman, Tuptim (Samantha Rusk), arrives at the palace. The king of Burma has sent the girl as a gift to the king of Siam. Anna openly opposes the treatment of a person as property, emphasizing progressive countries are moving from such inhumane traditions.
Unaccustomed to challenges from anyone, especially a woman, the king is outraged. A king is supposed to be a leader who knows everything, but Anna's accusations have stirred doubt in the sensitive monarch. He also worries about the British empire and other Western countries taking over smaller nations such as his and voices his confusion in "A Puzzlement."
Prince Chulalongkorn and Anna's son, Louis (Michael Daniels), strike up a friendship in spite of their differing backgrounds. The two young men sing their own version of "A Puzzlement." Tuptim and her lover, Lun Tha (Blake Bush), deliver their songs of yearning with smooth, mature voices. In minor roles are Brandon Gonzales, Zackery Blanton, James Daniels, Anthony Lear, Joana Rusk, Devon Warnement, Kaleb Martin and Olivia Lear.
Elementary and junior high students portray the royal children and students of Anna. They include Ava Cardwell, Traivon Cousin, Julia Esquivel, Erica Kauffman, Carmen Lewis, Aaron Miller, Eli McDivitt, Hope Nowicki, Addelyn Sprang, Lilly Vogel and Mya Weimerskirch.
A highlight of the show is the ballet of "Small House of Uncle Thomas," organized by Lady Tuptim, who is reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in Anna's classroom. The drama is a blatant statement against slavery, including her own unwilling subservience.
The ballet foreshadows tragic events that are to follow, but it also expresses hope for the future. The king understands change cannot come without hardships and challenges for his people.
Directing "The King and I" are Elizabeth Bellavia, assisted by Laurie Martishius. Directing the pit band is Nikkole Kleba.
Seats are $7. Tickets can be reserved by calling (419) 436-4113. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the school.