The light opera group of the negev to perform The King and I
This season’s Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON) production is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s well-loved musical, The King and I. It is based on the true story of Anna Leonowens, an English governess who went to Siam (today’s Thailand) in the mid 19th century to teach the king’s children. The King of Siam is both confounded and bewitched by his children’s new teacher who tries to help him come to terms with the modern world. The very familiar songs include “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, Hello Young Lovers”, ”Getting To Know You”, and “Shall We Dance?”
When the film version of the musical, starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, was released in 1956 it was banned from being shown in Thailand on grounds of historical and cultural distortions. The 1999 film Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster was found equally insulting to the Thai people and was also banned. To this day possession of anything related to Anna and the King of Siam or The King and I is illegal. Fortunately for LOGON’s audiences The King and I has been welcomed in Israel.
Anna Leonowens first wrote The English Governess at the Court of Siam in 1870, three years after she left Thailand. She followed this up in 1872 with a second book, The Romance of the Harem. Long after these two books had gone out of print, Margot Landon stumbled across them while living in Thailand. She decided to combine the biographical parts of the two books forming a new book called Anna and the King of Siam, eventually published in 1943. It was this book that inspired the 1946 movie starring Rex Harrison and the later musical.
This season LOGON’s veteran company is joined on stage by 23 teens and children from the Negev area, who were attracted by the idea of appearing in The King and I. The hope is that they will be bitten by the musical show biz bug, and return to LOGON as adults. One such case is Tamar Naggan who plays the lead female role this season after playing another Annie in Annie Get Your Gun in 2004 and Phylia in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 2003. Her previous performances with LOGON were as a child in four of LOGON’s early Gilbert & Sullivan productions.
The King will be played by Ed Spitz whom LOGON’s regular audience will know from the many lead roles he has played over the years. He and Tamar are joined on stage by 50 other performers in the production. Together with the backstage crew and orchestra, the logistics of administrating such a large group traveling round the country makes quite a task for the dedicated volunteer production team.
LOGON has a unique place, not only in the South, but also in other parts of the country. Founded in 1981 in Omer by a small group of enthusiasts who wanted to perform Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, LOGON today produces a different Broadway musical every year, performing throughout the country. It has also provided a musical “family” for many new immigrants from the English speaking world. Children and even grandchildren of some of the original members are appearing on stage together.
LOGON’s new director this season is Yaacov Amsellem who has directed more than 60 shows in Israel. He both directs and acts in the Negev Theater, a 30-member professional theater company, one of the goals of which is to encourage actors to stay in the South. Today he directs several theater groups, both amateur and professional, but has carved out a niche in working with community theaters. These include groups such as Akim-Beersheva for children with special needs and the Amal schools in Beersheva and Dimona, to prevent violence and drugs abuse via theater. The King and I is not his first English-language show; he has directed Israeli groups in productions in the Leeds and London theater festivals in the UK. As an actor Yaacov has appeared in many films, stage plays, TV productions and commercials. He also does voiceovers in French.
Musical Director of The King and I is David Waldmann, in his 10th season with LOGON. David directs several choirs in the Negev and has his own recording studio in Arad. Osnat Kashi, who has performed with LOGON in the past, has returned this year as its choreographer.
For the first time LOGON will be performing at the Heichal Hatarbut in Or Akiva and the Caesarea branch of ESRA has taken a block of tickets as a fundraising event.
Also for the first time there will be a Russian translation as well as the Hebrew translation during the performance.
For information about performances see LOGON’s website: www.lightopera.2ya.com