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Q&A: ‘The King and I’ Comes to The Broward Center

NETworks Presentations announces that the national tour of the Lincoln Center Theater Production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I, based on the 2015 Tony Award –winning Lincoln Center Theater Production, will make its Fort Lauderdale premiere at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts for 2 weeks, November 20 – December 2, as part of the Broadway in Fort Lauderdale series.  

Angela Baumgardner will play Anna Leonowens and Pedro Ka’awaloa will play the King of Siam, with DeAnna Choi as Lady Thiang, Bern Tan as Kralahome, Paulina Yeung as Tuptim, Dongwoo Kang as Lun Tha, Timothy Matthew Flores as Prince Chulalongkorn, Hayden Bercy as Louis Leonowens and Stanton Morales as Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsey.

It was a pleasure to sit down with “OUT” actor, Bern Tan, who plays the role of Kralahome and understudies for the King, for this exclusive Hotspots interview.

Were you always a performer, even as a child or when did you get “the bug”?

I really caught the bug in college and thereafter. I never took a singing lesson until I was in the University of Chicago. I had a choral director who was great at fundraising, so he was able to get stipends to individual members, and I was lucky to get one for 2 ½ years. I started after college in Operas and after a couple years I switched to musical theater.

What was your first professional/paid gig?

Right after college I got a job as a chorus member with the Singapore Lyric Opera performing in “Tosca” by Puccini.

How did you get cast in this touring company of The King and I?

I was not intending to audition for the show as I was still in grad school at NYU. A friend of mine asked if I would audition, it was in July which was well past the audition cycle, but they were still looking for Kralahome. I auditioned as a favor and also to get more audition experience. Three weeks later I was offered the role. I had established a nice flow in grad school, so I had to really think about it, but in the end, I decided to take it.

Other than this role, what has been your favorite role?

I would say the one that challenged me the most as an actor was Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. I was privileged to work with a great director that helped me get into this great role.

What is your fantasy role to play?

What really endeared me to musical theater were the big popular shows that came through the Midwest. I remember seeing Les Misérables, Phantom, and Miss Saigon. My fantasy role would be to play Jean Valjean in Les Mis.

What should our readers expect from this production of The King and I?

It is a very different take from the movie and the original Broadway show. The biggest difference, is the way the women stand up to the patriarchy.

There was one moment in rehearsal when Paulina Yeung (Tuptim), has such strength in the court of the King, all I can think of was the whole Cavanaugh thing, and the strength of  Dr. Ford.

One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, The King And I boasts a score that features such beloved classics as “Getting To Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance” and “Something Wonderful.” Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

In the words of Bartlett Sher, director of the 2015 Broadway production and the first national tour, “Great classics come back to us when we need them the most. In order to live up to the scale of its ambition, we have to go both backward and forward in time. It’s like having one foot in the past as deeply as we can, one foot in the present, and our eyes looking out as far ahead as we can to see how it resonates.”  

Tour director Shelley Butler says, “Now feels like the perfect time to bring forward this powerful story with its depiction of clashing cultures and its journey toward understanding. It is a great pleasure to helm the tour with a dynamic cast of 33 actors, including an array of international company members. It is an honor and a privilege to continue the vision of Bartlett Sher and the brilliant Lincoln Center Theater creative team.”

Tickets for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I are available at the Broward Center AutoNation Box Office, 201 SW Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33312, browardcenter.org or call 954.462.0222.

For more information, including the 2018–2019 touring schedule, please visit TheKingandITour.com.
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