All-Pinoy 'King & I' promises 'visual spectacle'

Posted at 09/13/2012 6:08 PM | Updated as of 09/13/2012 6:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Billed as the "biggest" local production of the classic Broadway musical, the all-Filipino staging of the "The King and I" is set to wow audiences this weekend.

Leo Valdez (left) and Monique Wilson in "The King and I." Photo by Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBNnews.com

"Our sets are amazing, ibang klase. Magugulat [kayo]. Talagang it's a visual, spectacular treat for the entire family," said Sheila Valderrama, who plays Anna Leonowens in the Resorts World-produced staging, which opens on Saturday, September 15.

"You have to see it. I think this is the biggest production of 'King and I' here in the Philippines. We have amazing sets, grabe 'yung mga costumes namin," added Valderrama, who was among the three Filipinos cast in the Asian tour of the stage musical "Cinderella."

Composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, "The King and I" tells the story of a British school teacher, Anna, who becomes the governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.  

Based on the actual memoirs of the real-life Leonowens, the original Broadway musical opened in 1951 to critical acclaim. It has since spawned a number of film adaptations and stage revivals.

Starting this weekend, the popular musical will have its local run at the Resorts World's Newport Performing Arts Theater.

"Ito ay kinagigiliwan noon pa, decades ago pa, [noong] '60s," said Bo Cerrudo, who portrays King Mongkut, alternating with West End thespian Leo Valdez.

"Ang mga awitin syempre nakaukit na sa puso natin, ilang henerasyon na. Sigurado mapapakanta sila at masisiyahan sila," Cerrudo added.

"The King & I" is best remembered for tunes such as "Getting To Know You," "Shall We Dance" and "I Have Dreamed."

"It's very challenging," said theater actress Monique Wilson, who also plays Anna in the musical's local staging. "It's a very personal journey for my character. She goes through so much emotionally and mentally sa show. Emotionally, it's very challenging."

"Talagang napakahaba ng show, at malaki talaga siya, there's a lot of cast members," added Wilson, who joined the original West End cast of "Miss Saigon" in 1989.

Also joining the all-Filipino cast of Resorts World's local production are Leo Valdez (King), Gina Respall (Lady Thiang), Tanya Manalang (Tuptim) and Lorenz Martinez (Lun Tha).

Playing the King's children are young actors Anton Posadas (Prince Chulalongkorn), James Ketcher (Louis Leonowens), Alexa Villarroel and Kristina Rodriguez (Princess Ying Yaowalak), among others.

Behind the scenes, Filipino designer Rajo Laurel designed the costumes for Anna and the King.

Directed by Freddie Santos, "The King and I" will premiere at Resorts World's Newport Performing Arts Theater on Sept. 15 and will run until December.