The King and I is one of Rogers and Hammerstein's most loved musicals, and Opera Australia's sumptuous, triple Helpmann Award-winning staging, including the gong for Best Musical, opens this evening at the Sydney Opera House. Set in Siam (now Thailand) in 1862, it tells the story of Anna Leonowens (portrayed by Lisa McCune), a strong-willed, widowed schoolteacher who is summoned to Bangkok to teach the many children of the King (played in the Sydney leg of the OA tour by Teddy Tahu Rhodes). The initial challenges and isolation of living within the Siamese palace and the King's apparently inflexibility and hostility almost drive Anna, and her young son, away from the court.
However after a confrontation, Anna sees the King in a more vulnerable and human light and helps the King to plan for the arrival of a British envoy, who are considering taking over Siam as a protectorate. With Anna's help the British envoy decide that the Siam court is not the barbaric threat they had feared and decide to leave the country under its own control. Anna and the King become close, but though their bond is strong the differences between their two cultures create a barrier between them that they cannot overcome. Only on his death-bed can the King and Anna's friendship be saved.
Presented by J.P Morgan and John Frost, directed by Christopher Renshaw, The King and I runs at the Sydney Opera House until October 30. For tickets visit www.opera.org.au