OVST’s ‘King and I’ doesn’t scrimp on talent or color

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As seen in The Athens NEWS:

OVST’s ‘King and I’ doesn’t scrimp on talent or color

By: McKenzie Powell
Athens NEWS Contributor

K ing heed no one, nobody at all… I think,” shouts a belly-baring King of Siam, clad in a deep burgundy and gold robe, loose pants with a wide gold belt and gold cuffs tightly wrapped around his ankles.

Thai-inspired backdrops and props can be spotted throughout the stage, rich in deep reds and shiny gold hues. Lush colors adorn the various actors’striking costumes, many of which resemble traditional Thai wear.

Only one theatrical performance could possibly be represented in these scenes, the slightly serious, yet frequently humorous musical classic, “The King and I.”

Ohio Valley Summer Theater’s first-ever summer production of “The King and I” commenced last Thursday, June 19, at the Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater in Ohio University’s Kantner Hall. It runs through July 6.

“The King and I” is an enjoyable musical-turned-love-story created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is staged in the 1860’s and focuses on Englishwoman Anna Leonowens’ journey to Siam where she assists the King of Siam in tutoring his wives and children.

Both Anna and the King have extremely different views regarding gender, values and religion. However, both individuals’ polar opposite dogmas create an unusual attraction and, eventually, lead to a shared respect, understanding and love for each other.

“The heart of the story is two different cultures and spending an evening finding the difference,” said Denise Gabriel, director of OVST’s “The King and I.”

“It’s really about pure and sincere process of what theater’s about, which is about connecting and telling the story, and in this story it’s really about love,” Gabriel said. “I really hope the audience leaves with question of where love is in their life and in all beings.”

OVST’s rendition of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic employs an impressive amount of scenic artistry, talent and vocals.

Among these talents is Athens High School student Haile Ferrier, 15, who shines in her role as a slave girl named Tuptim. Ferrier showcases vocal skills surprising in her petite frame and young age.

“You get to kind of be immersed in Siam,” Ferrier said while discussing the play’s ability to raise awareness toward world problems.

Despite beginning rehearsals in mid-May, OVST’s crew of almost 40 actors progressed quickly in a short period of time.

“We started this play with rehearsals that were seven days a week, and they lasted all evening and that was at the beginning of May,” said Caleb Taulbee, 15, who played the role of the priest.

Gabriel, the director, praised the actors, including the leads. “The leads in the show have just been wonderful,” she said.

Stressing the fact that all of the actors have a large part in singing, acting and making scene changes, Gabriel said, “They truly are the running crew.”

OVST is a 63-year-old non-profit theatrical company that works with both Ohio University and communities throughout southeast Ohio.

OVST’s next performances of “The King and I” will be this Thursday through Saturday (June 26-28), Thursday, July 3, and Saturday, July 5 – all at 8 p.m., and Sundays, June 29 and July 6, at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the Elizabeth Baker box office in Kantner Hall or at http://nightwiththeking.bpt.me.

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