This summer the Sunderland Empire will roll out the red carpet to welcome The King and I to the stage.
Following huge success in the West End, the show will be hitting the road with a run at the Empire from June 5-15.
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the much-loved musical, which features hits such as Getting to Know You, I Whistle A Happy Tune and Shall We Dance, tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom he brings overseas to teach his wives and children.
The cast headed to the city to launch the Wearside leg of the tour and say they’re looking forward to returning with the full cast and crew.
The King will be played by Jose Llana, who took the role to the Broadway stage, while Annalene Beechey will star as Anna after a successful stint in the show on the West End, a production which this week received six Olivier nominations.
In the North East they’re appearing alongside Coco Hu from Gosforth, Newcastle, who will be performing as one of the royal children.
Jose said: “I am a newbie in the UK and I’m very excited. It’s such an honour to take a show this beautiful, across the pond as they say, and it’s such an honour to be asked to do it.
“We’re excited to be bring the show to Sunderland.”
He added: “It’s an interesting time to be playing a world leader in this current climate, which is why The King and I is so timely right now.
“To play a world leader who is trying to protect his country and make the right decisions for, not just his children and his family, but for his country.
“America and the UK seem to be in a very divided place right now, so if we can tell a story about people reaching across hands in friendship and learning to get along and getting to know each other, it’s a very special show.”
Speaking about what audiences can expect, Annalene said: “There is so much to enjoy with this production, but at its heart it’s simply an extraordinary true story of the King of Siam and an English schoolteacher.”
•King and I is at Sunderland Empire from June 5 to 15. Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from Tel. 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland