Based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens, the musical is set in the late 1860s and is about how the King of Siam (now Thailand) hires an English governess to tutor his children in ways of the Western world.
With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein, the Broadway musical was adapted into a movie in 1956 starring Yul Brynner as the king.
Directed by concert director Freddie Santos, the production will have close to 200 costumes designed by Rajo Laurel and Aksana Sidarava.
“I am actually very familiar with the musical!” Laurel says.
He was cast as one of the children in the 1978 staging by Repertory Philippines, where he shared the stage with Lea Salonga and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who were also cast as children.
He says it feels as if he’s come full circle by now designing costumes for the production. He’d been fascinated by the costumes in the Rep production and it made him realize he wanted to become a fashion designer.
Tasked to design for the lead characters, Laurel’s “plan is to just go in and update the 19th-century costuming with a more modern take. The costume history of this production is very rich, specifically Anna’s corsetry and hoop skirts set against the King of Siam’s traditional garb. All it needs is just a modern flourish!”
Laurel has designed costumes for Repertory Philippines (“Evita,” “My Fair Lady”); Atlantis Productions (“Dreamgirls,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”); Ballet Philippines (“Inamorata”).
“Designing for the stage is very particular because it deals with both practical functionality and presence. It has to do with all of the minute details whilst simultaneously appealing to the point of view of an audience member. Theatricality is key as the sum of all the details makes for visual impact.”
Sidarava, who hails from Belaurs, will work on costumes for the rest of the cast. She says the preparations for costume design included research through books and the Internet as well as viewings of film versions of the story. “My guideline is the traditional costumes of that time period.”
Having started off as a dancer, Sidarava also incorporates her experience with body movement into her works. “As a costume designer, you always have to think about the actors and the way the costumes are going to flow around with their movements, and choose the right material for maximum stage effect and best comfort for the artists.”
With the participation of Philippine Ballet Theater and Manila Philharmonic Orchestra; musical direction by Rodell Colmenar; vocal direction by Lynn Fabella; sound design by Radz Corpuzset; design by Jo Tecson; and lighting design by John Batalla.
“King and I” opens Sept. 15 at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City. Call tel. 8366333 or visit www.rwmanila.com.