Selkirk Opera amazed its first audience with a spectacular performance of The King and I in the Victoria Halls this week, which running every night at 7.30pm until Saturday.
The cast and crew pulled out all the stops, making one of the most impressive productions Souters will have seen, full of lavish, oriental costumes and set design, and a luscious, evocative score from the orchestra.
The King and I is based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, inspired by the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.
The plot, turned into a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, relates the experiences of Anna, an English schoolteacher hired as part of the King’s drive to modernize his country. The relationship between the King and Anna is marked by conflict throughout, as well as by a love that neither can admit.
An imperious Peter Robertson, playing a silk-robed King of Siam, commands the stage, but he is matched by delightful performances from the King’s children, and the dancing of his wives - all too many to mention.
There is stand-out singing from Nicole Robertson, who plays Anna Leonowen, and Sophie Dyer playing a slavegirl called Tuptim, who is engaged in a secret love-affair with Lun Tha, given heart by stong vocalist Fraser Harris.
Joy Snape as the King’s top wife Lady Thiang, Lewis Wilde as his heir Prince Chulalongkom, and Steven Beveridge as Anna’s son Louis, all also lit the stage, beside revolving comic roles by Ian Wilson, Colin Cassidy, Alistair Pattullo, Raymond D’Agrosa, Robin Murray and David Mitchell.
Selkirk Opera has done The King and I twice before, in 1961 and 1991. “There are people on the stage tonight who were but children when they stood on this stage 23 years ago, and there are members in Front of House who appeared in this show 53 years ago,” writes Selkirk Opera’s president Alistair Pattullo. “I sincerely hope that some of the youngsters in the 2014 version are still around and still part of SAOS in 2067.
“This is part of the charm and necessity of companies like ours, the continuity which flows from the joint effort of coming together to put on a show; the life-long friendships; the opportunities for young people to learn the craft; the fun and joy of performing musical theatre. It’s all here. But it will only continue to be here if people make the effort, to step up and carry on this great tradition.”
Mr Pattullo explained it had been an interesting year for Selkirk Opera. “After the success of Oliver! we decided to jazz it up a bit and obtained the rights for Crazy For You, a great show which we’ve never attempted before with some great songs and lots of dance numbers,” he writes.
“All was going well until we came to cast it, and realised we didn’t have enough men for all the parts, never mind the essential men’s chorus. And try as we might we just couldn’t recruit enough guys. Maybe we could do a survey and try to find out what it is that keeps men from wanting to take part in theatrical productions. If anybody thinks they have the answer please let us know because, and here’s the bottom line, if we don’t get some men back into the company we will continue to struggle to put on the sort of entertainment our audiences have come to expect. Perhaps we wouldn’t be able to put on a show at all and after nearly 90 years of Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society that would be hard to thole.
“But we have a show this year, and it’s a blinder.”
The King and I continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 7.30pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2pm.