What better way to escape the summer heat than to huddle in the air conditioning and watch an adored classic brought to life! Prepare to be swept away by a story of love, loss and connection in ‘The King and I’, coming to Gold Coast Little Theatre from the 9th Nov – 7th Dec 2019. Cast entirely from local talent found on the Gold Coast, director Stuart Morgan has breathed new life into a story which welcomes diversity, inclusion and acceptance. Read on to discover Morgan’s vision for this production and some sneaky tid-bits of what you can expect when you see it for yourself.
What makes great community theatre?
Having fun – it’s why we do it! There needs to be a balance between professionalism and having a good time. I will always push my cast to be the best they can be. But not to the point where it is no longer fun.
What projects have you worked on and what do you love about the Gold Coast theatre community?
I have directed ‘Seussical’, ‘FAME’, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ at the Civic Theatre in Wagga Wagga, and have been in many more. Since moving to the Gold Coast I have been a part of ‘Tarzan’ at NAPA and ‘Catch Me If You Can’ at Spotlight Theatre. There is a strong connection between everyone involved in the arts on the Gold Coast and it’s nice to see the support from other theatres. There’s competition but its friendly.
Why did Gold Coast Little Theatre select ‘The King and I’ for the community?
The ‘King & I’ is a classic! It’s a beautiful story that has been produced countless times in the amateur scene, it has also been revived on Broadway and tours frequently. Why not bring it to the Gold Coast Little Theatre? There is a real market for this show on the Gold Coast.
What’s special about assembling an entirely local cast for this production?
From the first meet and greet we found that we had a cast that cared and supported the vision for this show, from our leading lady, Kellie Wilson (Anna Leonowens) all the way to the youngest children. I knew from the audition process that we would form a family group quite quickly. We picked people to be in the show that had talent but more importantly humility. Everyone supports each other because we are all Gold Coast locals with a passion for putting on great community theatre.
You have consulted with a cultural advisor for this musical. What insights have you gained so far and why is it important to bring correct cultural references to a production such as this?
This show was written at a time when it wasn’t common to leave your native country. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote this musical based on a story set in Siam and other small pieces of information. They had never been there! I wanted to be true to the culture of the show, because for me it is important that, although it’s theatre and we enhance and over dramatise our performance, it still needs to be rooted in reality. The details such as how a Thai person would bow make the biggest difference. I wanted the costumes and set to be grounded in Thai culture and not simply a rainbow of colour as the show can sometimes be portrayed. When casting this production, sensitivity to Thai culture was always at the forefront of our minds and we ensured that inclusivity was always present.
Tell us a bit about what has inspired you within the narrative and your vision for this show?
There is so much heart in this show! However, in the productions I was watching as research, I felt that the heart was lost. The focus was put on Anna. But there is more to the story! There is so much love in the show and I wanted this to translate to the audience. I have used colours to symbolise this love and to represent how two very different people can ultimately find commonality. I wanted to show that influence can change the future of a young ruler while still providing a warm colour to keep the audience feeling comfortable and entranced in the story.
This story is filled with so much emotion and truth, what moment are most excited to express on stage?
The finale! I have taken the end to a different level. Without giving anything away, I haven’t used the traditional ending, but have really played with a more modern way to end the story while still keeping true to the script.
Rodgers & Hammerstein create such incredible work! The small moments are what really make your heart sing. When Anna first sings “Hello Young Lovers” she is lost in the love she has for her late husband. When Tuptim confesses her love for another man in a truly remarkable and vocally impressive song. Lady Thiang teaching Anna that there is more to the King than she had first seen. I love those moments.
What elements of this production are relatable to audiences and why do you think this story has become such a well-loved classic?
We all have or will struggle with love, loss, adoration and joy in our lives. Theatre allows us to be present in a space of pure emotion. It does not ask for anything in return and I think audiences will be able to connect to that.
What can audiences expect from this production of ‘The King and I’? Why should they come to see it?
The costumes! The set! A colour pallet that I have handpicked from day one of planning. A cast of extraordinarily talented people, plus the emotions and comedy of the show! I wanted to slightly modernise a classic production while retaining its authenticity, and I think we have achieved that!
‘The King at I’ plays at Gold Coast Little Theatre until Saturday, 7 December 2019. Book your tickets now at Gold Coast Little Theatre’s Website.