Rafu Staff Report
LA MIRADA — The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” ends its run at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, on May 14.
Remaining showtimes for the critically acclaimed production are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Paul Nakauchi, who stars as the King, began his career in the ensemble of the “King and I” with Yul Brynner, who starred in the 1956 film version and played the King on stage for decades. As more Asian actors were cast as the King and in other roles, Nakauchi was in the 1996 revival with Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips, and in 1998 played the King on London’s West End opposite Elaine Paige.
He was in the 2016 Tony Award-winning revival as Kralahome, the King’s right-hand man, with Tony nominee Ken Watanabe and Tony winners Kelli Ohara and Ruthie Ann Miles. The costumes and sets from that Lincoln Center production are being used in the current show.
On the first day of rehearsal for the La Mirada production, Nakauchi said, “People in show business say it’s the first day of school because you have all this excitement about getting together for the first time … It’s always fun to get together with people that you know and meeting new people. I’ve had the good fortune of working with many of the people that are in this show, so it’s like old home week.”
The Orange County Register said, “It would hard to find someone better suited for the role than Paul Nakauchi … The King is a fabulous construct, a combination of bluster and bluff. Nakauchi’s is a ‘show don’t tell’ representation. The King’s abrupt and shocking transition from ardent dance partner in ‘Shall We Dance?’ into malevolent tyrant about to whip a servant for her betrayal is entirely plausible because of the actor’s spritely animation in fully fleshing out the King’s thought processes and whims along the way.”
The cast includes Anastasia Barzee as Anna, Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, Paulina Yeung as Tuptim, Ethan Le Phong as Lun Tha, and Alan Ariano as Kralahome.
Both Nakauchi and choreographer Rumi Oyama have previously worked on “Allegiance,” George Takei’s musical about the Japanese American World War II experience.
“I’ve done so many ‘King and I’s’ and I think this is the most big cast of people we saw in auditions,” Oyama said. “They were so amazing … We actually increased the number because we wanted them to work with us.”
The cast of 40+ is said to be the biggest on the La Mirada stage in many years.
“I love this show because it’s two people trying to understand each other and connect with each other, and they struggle but they find moments and it’s just so beautiful,” Oyama said. “For example, ‘Shall We Dance,’ it’s just a show-stopping moment … I think through the show people will reconnect with each other and totally find it really heartwarming.”
On opening night, Oyama had the pleasure of meeting actress and former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby McCoy of McCoy Rigby Entertainment, which is presenting “The King and I.”
“Growing up in Japan, I watched her ‘Peter Pan’ video over and over, about 100 times,” Oyama said. “Now I’m working in her theater! I’m so grateful. Dreams can really come true!”
Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased in person, by phone at (714) 994-6310 or (562) 944-9801, or online at: https://lamiradatheatre.com/current_events/broadway_series/the_king_and_i/