The King and I by Richard RodgersA mixed-race Anglo-Indian army brat, she managed to pass as a Victorian lady long enough to be hired as a governess at the court of Siam. Her experience in the royal harem was later parlayed into literary fame and a trans-Atlantic career of teaching, writing and lecturing. Equally crucial to these reinventions was her ear for language: not simply her knowledge of Hindi, Marathi, Persian and Sanskrit but the ability to mimic a genteel English accent. In , Mongkut, the king of Siam, asked his agent in Singapore to find his children a governess. A former Buddhist monk and an accomplished scholar who had earlier allowed American missionaries access to the harem, Mongkut was seeking a woman who would teach English without trying to proselytize. With few unmarried British ladies on the spot, Anna Leonowens — apparently ladylike and genuinely widowed — was chosen.
The King and I
It is based on Margaret Landon 's novel, Anna and the King of Siam , which is in turn derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens , governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early s. The musical's plot relates the experiences of Anna, a British schoolteacher hired as part of the King's drive to modernize his country. The relationship between the King and Anna is marked by conflict through much of the piece, as well as by a love to which neither can admit. The musical premiered on March 29, , at Broadway 's St. James Theatre.
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