The King of Siam, Anna and I in 1951 Part 2   Leave a comment

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Jose Llana as the King and Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna  

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The first time I saw the complete show was when I was invited to the Actors Fund performance which was held on a Sunday as most shows didn’t give performances and it gave the casts of those shows to see the ones they heard so much of and were anxious to see.

The night was a star studded night and I was sitting in the middle of an audience that I had only seen on stage or in movies. It was a night I would never forget as this was an audience of professionals who knew what work went into a show and it was clear both on and off stage all were having a night even better than an opening night! Gertrude Lawrence was loved by her peers and Yul Brynner captivated the audience.

The next time I was to see “The King and I” was in December. My mother belonged to “Show of the Month” club and as my father was usually out of town I would be her escort. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something was off as the show wasn’t as ‘exciting’ as it had been the last time I saw it. I won’t say that I knew something was wrong but 9 months later, at the age of 54, Gertrude Lawrence died of liver cancer that was never diagnosed.

I had been going to the theatre since 1944 when I saw the original cast of “Oklahoma” and picturing myself as Alfred Drake being Curly and the following year I wanted to be John Raitt as Billy Bigelow bringing me to tears as he sang the “Soliloquy”. I saw some of the best dramas such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” but I never remembered falling apart as I did when I heard about Gertrude Lawrence’s death. I was never to feel that way about another actor or actresses’ death.

Not seeing a stage production of “The King and I” for the next 66 years had nothing to do with that but just not being at the right place in the right time each time it was revived.

The Touring company montage


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