Exclusive Interview With Anthony Chan Star Of Philly Broadway Series ‘The King And I’

(PCM) When Anthony Chan thinks of the many children who play his siblings in the Philly Broadway Series production of “The King and I,” he gets a wide smile on his face.

The 24-year-old Chan is playing the part of the King’s eldest son, Prince Chulalongkorn in the current production at the Academy of Music, from March 22-April 2.

This is the national tour of the Lincoln Center Theater Production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical, and the tale of east meets west.

“We are thrilled to welcome a fresh, award-winning take on this classic American musical as we continue our 2016–17 Broadway Philadelphia season,” said Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

“We love when theater can become part of a family tradition,” she said, “and this long-running show, with its celebrated songs and unforgettable story, is a must-see for fans of all ages.”

Directed by Tony Award Winner Bartlett Sher, the “King and I,” won four Tony Awards in 2015, including best revival of a musical. This production features choreography by Christopher Gattelli, based on the original work by Jerome Robbins.

As musical theater lovers across the ages already know, “The King and I,” one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, boasts a memorable score, which features such beloved songs as “Getting To Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” and “Some Wonderful.”

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, who the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children. As Anthony Chan knows, life lessons abound from this classic.

Q: When did you join this tour?

ANTHONY CHAN: I auditioned in March and April of 2016, and heard back in May. We started rehearsals at the end of September and opened in Providence, Rhode Island on Nov. 1.

Q: What is the main difference between this and the Broadway production?

AC: Bartlett Sher Ba brought the show from Lincoln Center to a proscenium stage. What is exciting is that half the cast had done the production on Broadway or performed in the show before, so it wasn’t a new story for ever one to tell, yet it was a difference aspect of “The King and I,” to tell around the country.

Q: When was your first introduction to “The King and I?”

AC: I saw it at Lincoln Center about a year ago, before my audition for the role. I am a little embarrassed to say I still haven’t seen the [1956] movie musical. I wasn’t a musical theater kid while I was growing up. But when I saw the show last year I could see it was phenomenal.

Q: Please tell me about your character, Prince Chulalongkorn?

AC: I play the prince who is heir to the throne. He is the son of The King and Lady Thiang. He is a 15-year-old boy who is curious and wants to know everything. He wants to be like his father. He is also forced to grow up quickly when Mrs. Anna comes.

Q: What else is going on?

AC: She brings the modernization of 1862 Siam. But the only thing he knows is what he has learned from his father The King. He’s never known that different parts of the country exist. When Mrs. Anna comes this kind of squashes everything that he has believed. There is a beautiful arc of growing into a man, being true to who he is and being able to teach as well so that one day he may possibly rule a country.

Q: Your character has dozens of younger siblings. What is it like working with the youngsters in the show?

AC: I kind of see myself as a Den Brother. I enjoy it because I guess you could say that I grew up having a lot of younger cousins.

Q: What are they like?

AC: These kids are real bundles of energy. They are real rascals. We definitely have to look after them. They can get into a little bit of mischief, but the first thing I think of is that they put a smile on your face. I am smiling and laughing, thinking about what they will do tonight. Being a long side these children make me feel 10 years younger.

Q: What is the more challenging aspect of the show for you – the singing or the acting?

AC: Neither really. Every day brings something new to the table. What I love about this show is that every actor, singer, and dancer brings something new and fresh to the stage. There is so much meat for us to attack; so we are constantly talking about the show, and telling the story. I truly I love telling this story every night.

Q: Where are you from? How did you get to this place in your life?

AC: I grew up 10 minutes from San Francisco. My younger sister is the brains in the family. She is graduating from the University of Oregon in the physical therapy and science fields. My dad is the manager of a company and my mom is an accountant.

Q: Did your parents want you to pursue a career in the theater arts?

AC: My parents are supportive of everything that I do. Before college, I was in school for forensic chemistry.

Q: I didn’t expect to hear that from you.

AC: Well, in high school I performed in theater and loved it. So I started auditioning for musicals in New York City. I thought about science, medicine, and law, but I found my one true love for the arts and performing doing regional gigs. My parents never pushed me to find a back-up plan, or make sure that I had a steady job. Just as long as I am happy, they are happy.

Q: When you are not performing in the show how do you spend your free time?

AC: I love traveling, so doing a tour means seeing different parts of the country, and exploring places I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to otherwise. I also enjoy running, working out, and finding adventures in the cities and towns we visit.

Q: When the weather doesn’t permit a run how do you kick back?

AC: On a cloudy day, I don’t mind being inside reading a book and chilling out at the hotel or the Air B & B.

Q: What do you hope for your future?

AC: To keep performing, and to make sure that I am happy with whatever I am doing. I would like to pursue story-telling, which I feel is such a good form of art and expression. In the future I would like the arts to become more of a priority, especially in the schools. Younger kids are the best story tellers; so when I have my own family I would definitely encourage my kids to perform in the theater. I feel that the arts, especially theater, opens people up and helps them become more human, because they are hiding behind the box.

Q: If someone has seen the movie, or other stage productions, why should he or she come to see this touring production of “The King and I.”

AC: Laura and Jose, as Anna and The King, bring so much of themselves to these roles. I love Laura as Mrs. Anna because she brings so much humor and vitality to the way she plays the character; it is completely different from other actresses in the role. When you see a show like this, with new actors it takes on a whole new meaning; new actors bring new energy.

Q: Are there life lessons that fit modern times in this show?

AC: Oh, yes. I see a bunch of life lessons here. The show is about modernization, society, and a lot of what it means to grow up. Each character goes through a whole arc. There is so much to explore; lovers, kids forced to grow up, and a family that has to stay together. It is about a king who is confused, yet he has to rule a country. I believe there are a lot of lessons in each character and in each story line. East meets west, as well as a classic musical theater story that you can absolutely connect to.

For tickets, please call: 215-893-3333, or visit www.kimmelcenter.org.

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