The Royal Albert Hall's blockbuster staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway classic The King and I opened on Saturday (13 June 2009, preview 12 June), featuring a 75-strong company led by Maria Friedman and Daniel Dae Kim and directed and designed by the The Sound of Music team of Jeremy Sams and Robert Jones (their former leading lady Connie Fisher was among the first night guests).

Set in the late 19th century, The King and I tells the story of the British widow and governess Anna Leonowens, who’s brought to the court of Siam as tutor to the King’s children. Once within the sumptuous Royal Palace of Bangkok, Anna and the King grow to understand and respect one another and learn about each other’s cultures. The score includes “Shall We Dance”, “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Hello Young Lovers” and “Getting to Know You”.

The production has a budget of £3 million, making it more expensive than any other musical  undertaken in the 15-year collaboration between the Albert Hall and impresario Raymond Gubbay (See News, 5 Mar 2009).

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE KING & I's 1ST NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

The cast is led by Maria Friedman (whose younger sister, producer Sonia Friedman, was out in support on press night) as Anna and Daniel Dae-Kim (from TV’s Lost) as the King. Also featured in the 75-strong company are Jee Hyum Lim (as Lady Thiang), Ethan Le Phong (Lun Tha), Yanle Zhong (Tuptim), David Yip (The Kralahome), Michael Simkins (Sir Edward Ramsay), Stephen Scott (Captain Orton) and three sets of children. The production is choreographed by Susan Kikuchi, with lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound by Bobby Aitken, and the 60-strong Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Gareth Valentine.

It continues its limited run to 20 June.