American film and television actress Stefanie Powers will star in the UK touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, which opens at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 19 April 2002 ahead of a year-long, UK-wide schedule. Powers will play Anna Leonowens in Edinburgh to 18 May and then continue to the Manchester Opera House, from 21 May to 29 June 2002, after which she'll be replaced by British diva Marti Webb.

First produced in 1951, The King and I is based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon and has music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. This revival originated in Australia in 1991, before opening in 1996 on Broadway, where it had a two-year run. Its many foreign awards include four Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Theatre World Awards.

It also had a 20-month run, finishing this past January, at the West End's London Palladium, where it starred first Elaine Paige and then Josie Lawrence and was nominated for four Laurence Olivier awards, including Outstanding Musical Production.

Powers is best-known for the long-running American TV series Hart to Hart. On stage, she has previously appeared in plays (How the Other Half Loves, Sabrina, A View from the Bridge and Love Letters) as well musicals (Matador, Applause, All About Eve). In 2002, she toured the UK in The Adjustment.

Webb is well known to West End audiences for her many starring roles in the likes of Evita, Cats, Oliver!, Stop the World I Want to Get Off and Tell Me on a Sunday, which was written especially for her by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. She is currently touring in the tenth anniversary tour of The Magic of the Musicals.

Ronobir Lahiri, who understudied King Mongkut in the West End, will play opposite the leading ladies in the touring production. The King and I is directed by Christopher Renshaw, with choreography by Jerome Robbins, musical staging by Lar Lubovitch, scenic design by Brian Thomson, costume design by Roger Kirk and lighting by Nigel Levings. Orchestrations are by Bruce Coughlin, with musical supervision and direction by John Owen Edwards. The musical is produced on tour by David Ian for Clear Channel.

Following Edinburgh and Manchester, The King and I continues through March 2003 to Southampton, Plymouth, Bristol, Oxford, Sunderland, Liverpool, Birmingham, Woking and Bradford, with further dates to be announced.

- by Terri Paddock