Return of the king

A cast of 45 from Juneau-Douglas High School bring the story of an English governess and a Siamese king to the stage

Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2001

Matthew Monagle learned a valuable lesson shaving his head to play the King of Siam.

"I shaved my own head. That was a mistake," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I learned to use Nair, or let someone else do it."

Monagle plays the title role in the upcoming Juneau Douglas High School production of "The King and I," opening Friday night. "The King and I" is based on Margaret Landon's book about Anna Leonowens, a 19th century English governess who travels to Siam (now Thailand) to teach the children of the king. She finds the king to be a bigger challenge than his 70 children (by 20 wives.)

The book became an Oscar-winning film in 1946, "Anna and the King of Siam," and Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the true story into a successful Broadway musical. That became another Academy Award-winning movie in 1956, with Yul Brynner reprising his Broadway role as the king.

"It's been a book, a play, a movie, a musical, an animated movie - and now it's back to a play," said director Shanna Galuzzo.

It's a play loaded with songs, including "Shall We Dance," "Getting to Know You," "Kiss in the Shadows" and "Puzzlement." Senior Anna Ruddy, who plays Anna, said there are 15 musical numbers in the play.


"It pretty much goes from one song to another," she said.

Ruddy has sung in school choirs for years, but this is her first play. Galuzzo, who has directed the high school's spring musical for three years now, said she can't believe this wonderful singer could come out of the woodwork just a few months before she graduates. She joked that she's scheming to hold her back a year.

Six of the eight leads in the play are seniors, but many of the other cast members are freshmen. Although Galuzzo is losing many of the singers she's worked with in past years, she happy to see a talented new group coming up.

Sophomore actress Sereneti Franklin recalled her experiences in last year's musical and said the range of ages is a good combination.

"Last year I didn't know what I was getting into," she said. "This year I was able to pace myself better."

She said freshmen are treated as underdogs in the general high school environment, but that's not the case in drama.

"It's nice to have the diversity, and everyone gets along," she said.

In addition to the large cast and the stage crew, 20 musicians are playing in the pit orchestra under the direction of Ken Guiher. Alex Gagne-Hawes is playing French horn in the pit dressed as a Buddhist priest. When he's not needed below the stage he's working on stage, also doubling as a guard.

His fellow priest, senior Robbie Bishop, is also a musician who's spending time on stage in "The King and I." A singer and percussionist, he's contributed to musicals for the past four years as a drummer, and this year he wanted to broaden his experience.

"I had a New Year's resolution," he said. "Rather than be in the pit one more year I wanted to try my luck acting."

This will also be the final show for choreographer Karen Cross, who is moving to Michigan next week. She's worked with the drama department on different shows during the past six years she's been in Juneau. She's choreographed a number of dances for "The King and I."

"The King and I" opens Friday and shows at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the high school auditorium. It runs again at 7 p.m. March 2 and 3, with a final matinee at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3. Tickets are $10 in advance at Hearthside Books, $12 at the door, and $4 for children.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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