The King & I Thomas Cullen Year 12 Cairns State High School Cairns Choral Society has a long history of musical performances that amaze and delight audiences, having put on such world renowned acts as Les Miserables, Grease, Annie, Cats, and most recently, Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic, The King and I. I had the pleasure of performing in this particular show, which was directed by the extremely talented Venera Walsh, and ran from the 9th of January until the 24th of January, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience immensely. Set in 19th century Siam (now Thailand), the story follows Anna Leonowens (Joanne Wright), an English teacher from Wales, and her son Louis (Alec Steedman) to the court of King Mongkut (Michael Newman). It is a far different world to that which they are used to. What follows is a clash of cultures, with Anna at times respecting the King for his sharp mind and strongly held beliefs, but at others disgusted by what in her view is his barbaric behavior. Featuring unforgettable musical numbers such as ‘I Whistle a Happy Tune’, ‘Getting to Know You’, and ‘Something Wonderful’, and captivating dance pieces. The King and I explores themes that are timelessly relevant - the differences between the sexes, human rights, religion and the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. As a member of the cast, I witnessed the enormous amount of hard work and raw passion that went into the performance, which included over 60 students and teachers from around Cairns, not to mention the stirring music which was performed by the Cairns Philharmonic Orchestra. The show also featured Cairns High and Trinity Anglican School seniors of 2008 Claire Austen and Kurtis Lowden as the forbidden lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha. Despite the hard work and long hours, participating in the production was easily one of the most rewarding experiences of my life thus far, and the feeling of being on stage, doing what I love most is simply unbeatable! If you missed the Cairns Choral Society’s production of the King and I, you can find clips from the Broadway production on youtube.com, or rent out either the 1956 feature film, or the 1999 animated version of the film. It is a terrific story and the music, drama and visual richness of this musical is definitely worth a look. The Choral Society’s next production for 2009 is another well known musical, Miss Saigon, a heartbreaking tale of doomed love set during the Vietnam War.
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