When St Andrews Musical Society (SAMS) advertised looking for children to star in ‘The King and I’ so many talented youngsters came forward the group ended up recruiting two casts!
This will be a significant production for SAMS as it marks its return to the Byre Theatre.
The famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical, set in the 1860s, and tells the story of Anna Leonowens, who sailed with her son Louis to Bangkok to take up a post teaching the children of the King of Siam.
It features many favourite songs written by the American theatre duo, including ‘I Whistle a Happy Tune’, ‘Hello Young Lovers’, ‘Getting to Know You’ and ‘Shall we Dance?’.
And it offers many opportunities for young people to get to perform on stage – something the youngsters in north east Fife were keen not top pass up.
Alan Tricker, secretary of SAMS, said the children were recruited in September last year. Auditions were promoted in the Citizen, posters were displayed around the town and flyers sent to all primary schools in the local area.
“On the audition night 30 children arrived,” said Alan. “Robert Nee, the musical director, taught them a song as a group and made sure they could all sing. Similarly, director Sylvia Guy got them all involved in some basic dance moves. No one was put on the spot to do anything as an individul as in a musical the main aim is teamwork.
“We were looking for about a dozen children, but the ones who turned up were so good we just couldn’t say no to any of them.
“We quickly decided to form two groups, and each group will perform for half the week. It means rehearsals take a little longer as each scene has to be rehearsed first with one group and then with the other – but compared to the adults, the children pick it up so quickly it isn’t much of a problem!”
Some of the children go to local dance schools, a couple perform with Harbourlights in Anstruther, and some are in the St Andrews Children’s Choir.
However, for almost half of the group, this will be their first experience of being on stage before, apart from shows at their schools.
Age and experience vary – the youngest in the cast is just seven, but this is her third show! Half of the children are from St Andrews schools and the others are from Balmullo, Strathkinness, Anstruther and Newport.
“Theatre can be addictive,” said Alan. “Once the children have had the fun of performing on stage in this show, they will probably want to do others. Hopefully they will gravitate towards the Byre Youth Theatre or Harbourlights. Some return to us – Hannah Nicholls was one of the urchins in Oliver when we did that musical a few years ago and she plays Eliza in this show.”
Alan added: “It is a great experience for the children to work with people who, in many cases, have extensive experience of performing on the stage. Similarly, the children always bring such energy and enthusiasm to their performances that it helps to keep the adults on their toes.”
When ‘The King and I’ was first performed it was Yul Brynner who played the part of the King. The show was an immediate hit, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. It’s estimated Yul Brynner performed the role 4300 times.
However, if you want to see the show in St Andrews at the Byre Theatre, there are only six performances so book your tickets early. It runs from February 24 to 28, and tickets are available from the theatre box office.