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The City Journals

South Jordan Middle School Presents “The King and I, Jr.

Mar 10, 2016 09:17AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan - The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The King and I, Jr.” will be performed by 45 South Jordan Middle School students with the help of a dozen younger children.

The 90-minute show will be at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 9 through Friday, March 11 at the school, 10245 South 2700 West in South Jordan. Donations of $5 per family will be accepted at the door.

“This is a classic in music and storytelling with rich detail of issues and relationships, different cultures and discovering who we are and what really matters,” director Megan Straw, who teaches in the middle school fine arts and language arts departments, said. “There are so many similarities in the themes that sometimes 1860s Siam looks much like 2016 Utah.”

The show takes place in 1862 Siam, now called Thailand, where an English widow, Anna, and her young son arrive at the royal palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the king to serve as tutor to his many children and wives. 

By westerners’ viewpoints, the king is largely considered to be cruel. The king then seeks Anna’s assistance in changing his image and ways. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the king grow to understand and, eventually, respect and love one another. 

“It’s a very positive, uplifting musical that gives the message it’s never too early to talk about tolerance, friendship and accepting people who may be different than you are,” Straw said, adding that the cast discussed these themes in rehearsals.

The part of Anna is played by ninth-grader Ashlyn Owens and the king is ninth-grader Spencer Riley. Ashlyn sings “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance.” Other soloists include Spencer, who sings “A Puzzlement;” eighth-grader Macie Harris, who performs “Something Wonderful;” and ninth-grader Jacob Knighton, who sings, “We Kiss in a Shadow.”

The music director is Anna Hunter and the choreographer is Jane Jackson. About 18 students make up the stage crew.

“The music is beautiful and well known as many other musicals from Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Straw said about “The King and I,” the fifth musical written by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II.

As part of being involved in the musical, Straw encouraged students to research the culture so they understood the time period and people. They also incorporated Siamese traditional ballet with modern movement.

“The choreography is original. Jane is an artist and I was surprised and delighted when she took a concept and went with it, spending much of her winter break on this art form,” Straw said.

Much of the costume and set is in bright colors with gold shimmering, Straw said.

“It looks to represent the traditional Siamese style,” she said.

The musical premiered on March 29, 1951, at Broadway’s St. James Theatre and had a run of 1, 246 performances. “The King and I” won Tony Awards for best musical, best actress (Gertrude Lawrence) and best featured actor (Yul Brynner).After it closed on Broadway, it was then performed in London as well as in cities across the United States as part of a national tour.

Auditions for the SJMS musical were held Dec. 8-9, 2015 where students had to sing a memorized song and read a monologue. During call-backs, they also had to show their dance ability. The cast began their 90-minute after-school rehearsals Dec. 15.The cast will give in-school previews for fellow students before the show opens.

Last year, South Jordan Middle School school produced “Thoroughly Modern            Millie.”