No wonder so many people are single.
THE KING AND I background and analysis by Scott Miller Today, at the end of the millennium, many of the leaders and intellectuals of mainland China are wondering how their country can continue to modernize, to compete with the western nations, while still maintaining their cultural identity and traditions.
Many wonder if it is even possible. Shanghai, for instance, is a city split between the cultural pride and traditions of China and the developments and economic pressures of the west.
All of China faces difficulties in this area, as young Chinese covet designer consumer goods from the west and the yuppie lifestyle they see portrayed on American television, while the older generation worries about the decay of traditional morality and ethics.
This friction between east and west has resulted in a generation and culture gap in China far wider than anything America has ever faced.
But this is not a new problem in Asia. In fact, this is exactly the problem King Mongkut of Siam faced in the s -- how could he join the company of civilized nations, become respected and competitive among them, without losing the rich history and culture of his beloved Siam, without alienating his people who were not prepared to discard their simple Loyalty an essay on the morality of relationships treasured way of life.
In the s, Anna Leonowens, a widowed British schoolteacher was hired by King Mongkut to come to his country and teach his wives and children the English language and western culture.
She wrote of her experiences in a two-volume memoir. British stage star Gertrude Lawrence saw the film and decided the story would make a great musical, with her as Anna. Rodgers and Hammerstein, after some initial objections, agreed to write the show, now called The King and I.
Though Lawrence was supposed to be the lead, Yul Brynner became an immediate star playing the King when the show opened on Broadway in The film won six Oscars, including Best Actor for Brynner.
By the time Brynner died of lung cancer he made the film with only one lunghe had played the role of the King on stage 4, times.
There was even, very briefly a few months ina television series based on the story, called Anna and the King, starring Yul Brynner, Samantha Eggar, and Keye Luke.
The King and I has been revived in New York in, with Brynnerfor Brynner's farewell performance after a long tourand The revival, directed by Australian Christopher Renshaw and starring Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips, was a radical re-examination of this show that was intelligent, sexy, and for many people, a genuine revelation.
Like other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, The King and I, is a classic and that had become its greatest handicap. American directors and actors bring too much baggage and too much reverence to the piece, too many recollections of past productions and of the movie, of pop singers' overly soulful renditions of the "hit tunes.
Never before had a musical been built around two more complex, more passionate, more intellectually fascinating characters even Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, in Carousel, didn't have this complexity. Yet because of the time in which the show was originally created and because of our over-familiarity with the story, these two characters had become sanitized, one-dimensional combatants, period-piece Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, their sexual tension almost non-existent.
When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote and produced the show intheir writing was too far ahead of the moralistic and artistic limitations of contemporary musical theatre. Actors still performed songs rather than acting them which wouldn't change until the early seven in serious musicals. Songs still needed choreography even when there might be nothing to dance about "Getting to Know You," for example.
Actors and directors hadn't yet figured out that all the principles of serious drama could and should be applied to serious musical theatre. And though Rodgers and Hammerstein had broken the restrictions of subject matter allowable in a musical, they hadn't really broken free of the structural conventions, needing a secondary couple, needing an explicit romantic love story, needing dance.
Still, for too many American theatre artists, this show and others still rest uncomfortably in the time frame in which they were written, and though musical theatre has moved forward, the advances aren't always applied to these older shows.
As we must with Show Boat, Carousel, and other older, serious musicals, we have to approach The King and I as if it were a brand new show, forgetting all preconceived notions we may have. So it was surely unintentional, but Hammerstein's book and lyrics are somewhat condescending toward the culture and people of Siam now Thailand.
The Siamese were laughed at throughout the show, with no acknowledgement of the racism, arrogance, and dismissal of Siamese traditions by the intrusive westerners.
Forty years later, director Christopher Renshaw came at the story from a different perspective. He had actually lived in Thailand for a while and genuinely understood and respected the Thai traditions and culture.
He insisted that the costumes, set decorations, and other visual elements were as close to authentic as possible.Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships - Kindle edition by George P.
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