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Lyric Theatre continues 50th anniversary season with 'The King and I'

Following an absence of 30 years, Rodgers and Hammerstein's “The King and I” returns to the Lyric Theatre stage.
BY RICK ROGERS Modified: July 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm •  Published: July 7, 2013

/articleid/3859799/1/pictures/2152628">Photo - Heather Geery as Anna Leonowens in "The King and I." <strong>Photo by Keith Rinearson</strong>
Heather Geery as Anna Leonowens in "The King and I." Photo by Keith Rinearson

“She's a teacher, and he's a King, which means that they're used to being heard and listened to. They're like alpha dogs. They both want something that the other has. They have a lot of walls to break through and slowly they find that they're willing to open up to each other.”

One innovation that promises to lend this production greater authenticity is the casting of 21 Asian-American children.

Playing the King's children by his numerous wives, this group's presence figures prominently in numbers ranging from “Getting to Know You” to the “March of the Siamese Children.”

“It's thrilling because it shows where we are as a country,” Muraoka said of his young cast. “There was a lot of outreach to organizations in the Asian community. For some of these kids, it's their first theatrical experience.

“I think it's interesting too that we're not trying to change or mask their personalities. There are quiet ones, loud ones, shy ones. We're embracing that rather than trying to make them all appear the same. It creates a real family where you see bonding between mothers and their children.”

Also lending a sense of authenticity in Lyric's production is the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. Greg Zane, who along with Muraoka appeared in the 1996 Broadway revival, was taught Robbins' choreography by Susan Kikuchi. Her mother Yuriko had created the role of Eliza in the original Broadway production and subsequently set Robbins' choreography in various productions.

“Jerome Robbins' choreography is as iconic as Bob Fosse's ‘Chicago,' or Michael Bennett's ‘A Chorus Line,'” Muraoka said. “Greg has been given this incredible gift that has been passed down through generations and the Lyric cast is lucky to be doing a piece of musical theater history.”

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