‘The King and I’ is now on stage at the Academy of Music.
By Rita Charleston
According to many, The King and I is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s finest works.
With a lush score featuring such beloved classics as Shall We Dance, Hello Young Lovers, Getting to Know You and so many more, the award-winning musical plays at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St., through April 2.
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of an 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 this production, Philippine-born Joan Almedilla takes the role of Lady Thiang, the King’s Chief Wife and mother of the Crown Prince. She is fiercely loyal to her husband and her country.
According to Almedilla, growing up she always loved to sing but wasn’t particularly interested in acting. But through her love of music, she stumbled upon the much-coveted role of Kim in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon.
“I always loved music, and through this role I realized the beauty of the theater,” Almedilla points out. “Actually, the theater teaches you something about life. It shapes you.”
Unlike most theater actors who spend years honing their craft, Almedilla never had formal drama training. Yet today she is one of the most sought-after actresses in the theater, having previously landed coveted roles in such productions as Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar (which brought her to Philadelphia once before), Songs For a New World and others.
Amedilla says she’s now thrilled to have this role in one of her favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein shows.
“Lady Thiang orchestrates much that happens in the palace. If anything dishonors the King or her country, it makes her do whatever needs to be done to fix the situation. And she has lots of interaction with Mrs..Anna. In fact, one of her most important duties is to make sure Mrs. Anna understands that behind his rough exterior, the King is a wonderful, kind man.”
Almedilla also enjoys the opportunity to sing one of the show’s favorite songs, Something Wonderful, and appearing in a show with her young son, CJ, who plays one of the royal children.
“It’s a thrill to watch him work, although when he’s rehearsing I leave the room and turn him over to the director. I’m certainly not a stage mother. I want him to enjoy the experience as much as I do.”
And when they’re not working, Almedilla says she and her son are off exploring different cultures in the different cities they visit.
“That’s why I’m so anxious to get back to Philadelphia to show him all the important things around the city. It’s a beautiful city, and I do love it there.” ••
For tickets, show times or more information, call 215–893–3333 or visit kimmelcenter.org