The King and I

Music: Richard Rodgers

Lyrics & Book: Oscar Hammerstein II

Originally conceived by Gertrude Lawrence as a vehicle for her return to the musical stage, The King and I was based on Margaret Landon's novel, Anna and the King of Siam. After Cole Porter declined the project, Miss Lawrence turned to Rodgers and Hammerstein who quickly agreed to write and produce it.

The story is set in Bangkok in the early 1860s and tells the story of Anna, an adventurous Englishwoman hired to serve as governess and tutor to King Mongkut's many children. Although Anna has many quarrels with the dictator, the two eventually fall in love, and her influence on the king helps to democratize the country. The role of the king was turned down by the likes of Rex Harrison, Noël Coward and Alfred Drake. Finally, a virtually unknown actor named Yul Brynner was given the part and through the sheer force of his personality, without any change in the script, managed to switch the dramatic focus of the play from Anna to the King. Brynner's name has since become virtually synonymous with the role of King Mongkut.

The King and I opened at the St. James Theatre on March 29, 1951 and ran for 1,246 performances. After Miss Lawrence's death in 1952, the part of Anna was played by Constance Carpenter, Annamary Dickey and Patricia Morison. In 1956, Yul Brynner starred in the film version with Deborah Kerr. A major Broadway revival was staged in 1996 with Lou Diamond Phillips playing the part of the King.

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Related Sites

American Theatre Index

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Me and Juliet


Show Boat

The Sound of Music

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