Don’t think Yul Brynner, says Wez Sebastian as he prepares to play the King in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
BROS Musical Productions return to the Regis Centre with The King And I from Tuesday, May 30-Saturday, June 3.
“It’s an iconic role,” says Wez. “Everybody knows the role, and I have seen the show on stage a few times. But I think a lot of people try to go for the Yul Brynner approach, and a lot of women try to go for an interpretation of Deborah Kerr. But we have gone back to the original roots of it all. We are not doing the shaved head. This will be a top knot.”
The musical was inspired by the real-life adventures of Anna (played by Caroline Bennett), a proper British schoolteacher who travels in 1862 to Siam (now Thailand) to teach the children of the king (Wez).
“Though she is repelled at times by a way of living so foreign to her own, Anna finds herself entangled in the dramas of the royal court – and drawn to the charismatic king.
“Aside from the visual aspect, it is a challenging role in lots of other ways, in the way that Anna softens the king’s approach. He has very much been led by previous generations.
“He has been moulded into being how he is by his ancestors. But when Anna arrives, she softens his whole approach to things. More than anyone else, she gets into the emotions of the king, and that’s good to see. People will enjoy seeing that change.
“I think the king appreciates her confrontational approach. Nobody has done that before. Nobody has stood up to him, and that’s a good thing.
“When we get to Shall We Dance? you can see how much there is between the two of them. When we get to the end of the show, you can really appreciate how she has changed things for the better.
“And you just can’t beat the music. Rodgers and Hammerstein… fantastic. I have done lots of shows over the years, but for both Caroline and myself this is our first Rodgers and Hammerstein. Caroline did one of the children in The Sound of Music as a child… but this is our first as adults, and we are loving it.
The show also features a forbidden romance between emissary Lun Tha (Richard Millen) and the slave girl Tuptim (Bethan Chapman).
For Wez, who lives on Hayling Island, it’s a case of BROS having come full circle for him.
He first appeared with them in 2004 in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, but since then his work for the company has mostly been on the production side of things.
“It is great to be playing this role. I did Priscilla Queen of the Desert in London, and I tour with my own cabaret show. I do a lot of drag performances so it is nice to be playing in my own gender again. I have gone from Queen of the Desert to King of Siam!”
Tickets on 01243 861010 or http://www.regiscentre.co.uk
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