The King of Siam, Anna and I in 1951 Part 1   Leave a comment

It was 66 years ago this month that I became a “2nd act-er”. I don’t know, with all the security these days, if there are people who still do it. Going to Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx I would run out of my last class, get to my locker and take my sports coat and go to the IRT subway at Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road and take the train down to Times Square. Depending upon the time I would either walk slowly or fast so that I would arrive at a show that I wanted to see as it was taking an intermission. I would light a cigarette, pick up a stray Playbill program and when the bell started ringing I would walk into the theatre, go to the men’s room and by the time I was finished I, usually, could find an empty seat or, at the least, take a place in the Standing Room Only section.

In 1951, I was 15 years old that April, and I was already a theatre lover but it was Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner who cemented that love. I didn’t know who Brynner was but his performance as the King of Siam with his body glistening from oil and his shaved head bringing sexiness to his already pronounced masculinity which a month later would win him a Tony Award as Best Featured Actor.

From Gertrude Lawrence’s entrance, seemingly floating across the stage to her showing the strength that Anna was made of, she had me, and the audience, in the palm of her hands. She didn’t have the voice of an Ethel Merman or Patti Lu Pone but they didn’t have the sheer force of her acting.

I would see “The King and I” two and a half times, including that first time as a 2nd act-er. It would be 66 years later that I would see it on stage again!

“Shall We Dance?”  Gertrude Lawrence & Yul Brynner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDrIGpUtDOo

“The King and I” coming the Arsht Center in Miami on Tuesday May 9.

 

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