For those who didn’t get to see the Tony-winning revival of The King and I when it was on Broadway in 2015, or when it transferred to London’s West End this past summer, you’ve now got another chance: Just whistle a happy tune as you head to your local movie theater.
The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is making a bow in cinemas with The King and I: Live From the London Palladium Theatre, showing on U.S. screens on select dates via Trafalgar Releasing. Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe reprised their Broadway roles as Anna and the King of Siam, as did Ruthie Ann Miles, who won a Tony for playing Lady Thiang.
Above, you can see O’Hara — who won a Tony for her portrayal of the British schoolteacher hired by the king to tutor his children in 1860s Bangkok — and members of the musical’s ensemble singing one of its most iconic songs, “Getting to Know You.”
During a special screening of the film in New York last week, O’Hara and director Bartlett Sher joined EW to discuss their experiences working on the Broadway production and returning for the London run. During that chat, O’Hara said she was surprised by the depth of what she learned from playing Anna over these last few years.
“[Initially] I thought I’m gonna do this easy, ‘Whistle a Happy Tune,’ ‘Getting to Know You’ musical, and what surprised me was I learned more about myself, about the world — the way I felt about it, and what it means to have a voice — than I’ll ever know,” she said. “I learned so much from playing this woman, and I continue to.”
“Getting To Know You” became an anthem of sorts for O’Hara, because the (deceptively) simple, incredibly hummable song is about people coming together despite their differences and trying to understand one another. “To me, everything I wanted the show to be about was about that song,” she said. “Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. Just trying to understand each other and trying to plead and say, ‘I see the best in you, and I want you to see the best in me.’ That’s how I felt it every night.”
Sher — who directed the well-received revival of My Fair Lady this year and is bringing the Aaron Sorkin-adapted To Kill a Mockingbird to Broadway — also shared that getting to revisit the production for the London transfer allowed him and the cast to re-examine their show. “We had an amazing opportunity, which you don’t always get, when you work on something for a long time and then let it go away for a while and then you come back to it. Suddenly you walk through it as an artist, [and you think,] ‘Oh my God, this is what I did, why did I do that?’… There are very subtle ways in which it changes, we pushed it to new places. You just get to reignite the questions you asked the first time and balance them against the new person you are, and see where you are with that.”
The duo also discussed the balances between retelling a classic, beloved tale and finding its relevancy in a more modern era. One example they gave was Miles’ perceptive and emotional performance as Lady Thiang, who gently but knowingly guides Anna in her interactions with the king. “In 2015, we were on the verge of maybe electing a woman for president, we were feeling all those feels at the time,” said O’Hara. “Doing it in 2018 was a whole different story, but at that time you take someone like Lady Thiang and the way Ruthie played it — which was in large part an idea that Bart had, which was that Lady Tiang is the Hillary Clinton. She is the one running the show. I loved the idea that she was the most powerful woman in the kingdom.”
Details on showtimes and tickets for The King and I: Live From the London Palladium Theatre can be found at the film’s website.