Why The King And I still has “huge relevance” today... - Eastbourne dates

Broadway’s Darren Lee is the King in his first major UK tour as The King and I hits the road the length and breadth of the country.
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Dates include Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre from December 13-23. The multi award-winning Broadway production also stars Annalene Beechey.

As Darren says: “It's one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musicals and it has got an absolutely stunning score but the great thing is the story is really relevant. It centres around the school teacher that is brought to Siam by this King of Siam who is very also authoritarian but he realises that he is actually a small fish in a very big world. He knows that he has got to be progressive enough to learn and to move forward and to adapt, and he learns a lot more himself. He knows that he has got to adapt and learn so the next generation, his children, will be able to carry on. And I think what is so stunning is the idea that you get in the second act where there is this upbeat song called Shall We Dance which is the moment that these two opposing forces come together and decide whether they are able to have a unified approach and whether they can do something together. The song is such a great metaphor for life, just trying to find out whether you can work together and change together. He is a very complex character. He is a man that is deeply rooted in tradition and in the idea that he has to answer to everyone and he has to be able to take care of his country but at the same time, as I say, there is this aspect of him that he knows he has to adapt and to change. And that's what makes him so interesting, the fact that he is stubborn and vulnerable and angry and complex but there is humour as well. You look at all these different things existing within this one man.”

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Darren comes to it off the back of a US national tour in which he understudied three roles, including the King, which now gives him a huge advantage in coming to the role of the King full time.

The King And I - pic by Johan PerssonThe King And I - pic by Johan Persson
The King And I - pic by Johan Persson

"Being an understudy was nerve-racking but also exhilarating at the same time and I'm really excited and honoured and grateful that I've had this history with the show so that I do have an understanding of who I think this person is. And I'm just really excited to share that understanding with the audience for the duration of the tour. When I first started going on as the king on the US tour, you find yourself saying certain lines with certain specific cadences but I think when you are doing the role on a permanent basis you are able to do everything in a much more consistent way. And I just think the show is so relevant. It is this idea of staying in power but to do that you need to stay relevant and to do that you have to compromise. You have to be able to listen and to adapt and to understand and to appreciate what is for the greater good. I think it's a trap when you're in power as a ruler and you start thinking in a way that actually locks you off from change and locks you off from learning. It’s a tricky balance.”

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