Show finally goes on for 4Seasons Theatre Group

The show must go on; just ask the 4Seasons Theatre Group. Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE finds out why illness proved a royal pain when it came to staging The King and I.

IT’s taken a while to get there, but the 4Seasons Theatre Group has finally arrived in Siam.

Their production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I - which first hit stages 60 years ago - was due at Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre in July.

“We had two of the cast rushed into hospital and a death as well,” explains group chairman and artistic director Edward Colthorpe. “We were three months into rehearsals, everybody had been cast.

“There was just no way I was prepared to try to put it on the stage because we’re a growing company and in terms of adult actors we’re a little bit thin on the ground; that’s really what we’re trying to build up. It was too risky to try to put on, whatever people are paying needs to be justifiable.”

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Further illness and university commitments also proved problems. All told, four principals and one supporting role had to be re-cast.

Ranging from five to 40, the cast of 45 from in and around Ipswich can’t wait to get on stage.

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The play is based upon the book by Margaret Langdon, who was engaged as a school governess by the King of Siam.

Opening with Anna and her young son arriving to take up her new role as teacher to the king’s many children, despite initial language and cultural barriers she and the king eventually develop mutural respect for each other.

Exotic locations, costumes and music make it a treat for the eyes and ears; as well as covering issues as relevant today as they were then.

Alli Hewitt, who plays the king’s head wife Lady Thiang, is no stranger to the play; having played her three times already.

“I’m looking forward to it and some of the cast have been for a long time obviously with the postponement. Once the kids get their costumes. that really starts to make things very exciting, very real. It always gives people a lift to see it all coming together.”

Her first time with 4Seasons, she adds: “It’s a lovely part, very heartfelt. It’s a very different interpretation, so you always learn something new. It’s lovely company to work for.”

Nineteen-year-old UCS student Rio Davies has been with the group three years now; playing Anna, she wasn’t familiar with the story and has been getting inspiration from the movie and soundtrack.

“It’s a nice story; but I need to learn my lines,” she laughs.

“We’re not that close yet,” she adds when talk turns to waking in the middle of the night to go over them. I’m worried I’ve planted the idea in her head now.

Fellow cast member Jacob Collins, 34, from Ipswich, plays The King of Siam. Not only is it his first time with the company, but his first major role. He landed the job courtesy of his wife who knows Edward.

“He said ‘we’re looking for a king’, she said ‘my husband does amateur dramatics’. So I turned up here with all the kids one Friday and I’m a king all of a sudden,” he laughs. “I’m trying to [enjoy it] yes. It is scary.”

Another newbie to the group is Bethany Bugg who plays Tuptim and has worked on the choreography for the lavish dance numbers.

She answered a previous piece in the paper about the need for cast members. Used to performing with different companys she hadn’t done anything for a few months so picked up the phone.

“It’s given me an opportunity to flex acting and dancing muscles. There are some fantastic numbers. From a music and dance point of view it’s spectacular.”

The elaborate costumes don’t pose a problem when it comes to the choreography then?

“Not really you have a vision and I worked together quite closely with Edward and we kind of come up with what we wanted it to look like. We’re having a big ballet scene, we’ve got some effects in there that we want to put in together so it should be brilliant, [this show is] one to watch.

The King And I runs at Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre on Friday, November 25, 7.30pm and Saturday, November 26, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. It’s in aid of The Stroke Association, Suffolk. Previous charities to benefit from productions include Victim Support Suffolk, Talitha Koum Project and Age Concern Suffolk.

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