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Release: March 12, 1999

(NOTE TO EDITORS: For interviews, Big League Theatricals, the producer of the "King and I" tour, can be reached by phone at 212-575-1601, or by fax at 212-575-9817.

Shall We Dance? 'The King and I' national tour comes to Hancher April 2-3

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The national tour of the evergreen Rodgers & Hammerstein musical "The King and I" will come to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for three performances -- at 8 p.m. Friday, April 2, and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 3.

The lavish, new Broadway production of "The King and I" won four 1996 Tony Awards, including "Best Musical Revival." Fox TV called the show, "A royal treat for the whole family . . . This is a golden triumph."

"The King and I" was first produced on Broadway in 1951, when it won five Tony Awards including "Best Musical" and was the most expensive musical ever produced. Set in the 1860s, the show is a fanciful retelling of widowed English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens' tenure tutoring the 67 children of the King of Siam, spiced with the story of the doomed love between a Burmese slave girl and her escort.

The show, propelled by a culture clash that softens into love, remains one of the most beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, both on stage and in the classic 1956 film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, who originated the role on Broadway. By his life's end, Brynner had portrayed the King in a record-setting 4,625 performances.

"The King and I" includes some of Rodgers & Hammerstein's best-loved songs, including "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello, Young Lovers," "We Kiss in the Shadow," "Something Wonderful" and, of course, "Shall We Dance."

Beginning with "Oklahoma!" and ending with "The Sound of Music," Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III collaborated on nine stage musicals, the movie musical "State Fair" and the TV special "Cinderella." Collectively, the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals have earned 26 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and a lasting place in international theatrical life.

The 1996 revival, featuring staging by Daniel Stewart and the show's original choreography by Jerome Robbins, was described by syndicated columnist Liz Smith as "the most ravishing show you may ever see."

The imaginary events of "The King and I" are based at a crucial point in Thai history. King Mongkut, the monarch portrayed in the musical, succeeded to the throne in 1851. Seeing the fate of other Asian nations under the onslaught of European colonialism, he abandoned his nation's isolation and invited foreign diplomats to his court.

Always seeking ways to increase the geo-political awareness, he decided to offer a modern education to his inner circle of wives and children. In 1862 he hired 28-year-old Leonowens, who was teaching the children of British military officers in Singapore.

She remained in the Siamese court for five years and later documented her experiences in two books and international speaking tours. Although the accuracy of her accounts has been challenged by recent scholarship, her books became significant sources of information about Siam and its culture for western readers.

Mongkut's eldest son, Chulalongkorn -- who learned English from Leonowens -- assumed the throne in 1868. His 42-year reign included revolutionary reforms, including the abolition of slavery.

In 1944 Anna's experiences became the basis of another book, Margaret Landon's "Anna and the King of Siam," which prompted versions for stage and screen.

Telegroup, Inc. is the corporate sponsor of the Hancher performances of "The King and I" through the University of Iowa Foundation, with media support from the Gazette.

Remaining tickets for "The King and I" are $35 and $33. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Audio description, for audience members with visual impairment, will be available free of charge at the 2 p.m. performance on April 2.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web.