When Rodgers & Hammerstein’s famous tale of Anna and The King of Siam comes to life on the Wolf Trap stage from Friday through Sunday, pay close attention to the children as you may see some familiar faces.
In addition to Broadway veteran Victoria Mallory as Anna and Ronobir Lahiri as The King, 14 Fairfax area students, ages 7-14, were chosen to be a part of the musical “The King and I,” and all will be making their Wolf Trap debuts this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to just being on stage because that’s one of my favorite things about being in any production,” said 12-year-old Kiana Khoshnoud of Great Falls. “I love to act very much because it makes me feel very happy. I have been doing theater and ballet since I was 3.”
The children were selected from a group of 40 who came to audition last month at Wolf Trap in front of Bill Newberry, teen ensemble director for Theater of the Stars.
“Every year we do a small tour and the producers love to get children from all over the country involved in their projects so we contact the theaters we will be at and I find the children we need,” Newberry said. “We had such a great turnout at Wolf Trap. I taught them one song from the show, we did some dance movement and any one of them could have been selected.”
Newberry admits that height does play a role in his casting and he explains to the children that different factors play into his decision.
“I tell them an audition is never simply about objective talent because we are looking for specific things for the show,” he said. “Size matters since we have little time to alter costumes and we were able to do that because we had such an outstanding group of people come out.”
“The March of the Royal Siamese Children” is an iconic moment of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” as it introduces the children to Anna. It’s a big part of what the area children will be doing.
“They will be playing the young princes and princesses of the King of Siam and they are quite prominent in Act 1. It’s quite an experience for them,” Newberry said. “These kids have three days to learn what they need and then go on with a Broadway cast, so it can be pretty daunting. It’s quite a thrill for these kids.”
When Sterling’s Lucia Alami learned her daughters, 9-year-old Samira and 7-year-old Safiya, were interested in acting in something a little bigger than their school show, the proud mom brought them down to Wolf Trap and saw both get roles.
“They have done some performing in school plays and talent shows and they really enjoy it so when we heard about this opportunity, I immediately signed them up for the audition,” Alami said. “All week they have been going through the sheet music and YouTubing the songs and watching the movie. They are so excited to get this experience under their belt.”
Samira said she enjoys singing the best, while her sister likes dancing.
“We had to remember lines and do the march and it was fun,” Samira said. “It’s going to be different than what I’ve done.”
Another key scene is when the children sing “Getting to Know You” with Anna. They also fill in for scene changes and get to act, dance and really show what they are made of.
“I like that there’s always something going on and there’s excitement in the story,” said Holden Brettell, 11, of Fairfax Station, who did a dinner theater production of “The King and I” in Maryland last year. “I’m really excited to be doing this show at Wolf Trap.”
His 9-year-old brother Remy also is joining him on stage.
“It’s really fun for me having people watching me,” he said. “We are both practicing to get ready.”
Katie Lim, 9, a fourth-grader at St. Leo the Great Catholic School in Fairfax city, is no stranger to the stage.
“She has a background in community theater and has a great singing talent and is anxious for any opportunity to showcase her talents,” said her mother Adele. “We’re all looking forward to seeing her at Wolf Trap.”
Katie said that ever since learning she made the show, she’s been practicing her singing and watching the movie version.
“I’m looking forward to being on that stage and seeing how big it is and how big the crowd is,” Katie said. “A lot of my friends are going to come see me, and that makes me feel good to know so many people support me.”