By Kelly Burch
---- — The Pentucket Playerswill celebrate the group’s 20th anniversary in royal style this weekend with the production of “The King and I.”
The musical will performed at the Roders Center for the Arts at Merrimack College tomorrow and Saturday, featuring more than 50 local actors and actresses of all ages.
“It’s a beautiful show,” said Director John Buzzell, who also is a founder and the executive artistic director for Pentucket Players, Inc. “It s a nice, warm, family kind of show. We invite you to escape the winter with three hours of sunshine.”
“The King and I” is a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that tells the story of Anna Leonowens, an English widow who has been summoned to Bangkok to tutor the wives and children of the king of Siam. The play chronicles the cultural clash and eventual love story that blossoms between the king and Anna.
“It’s a beautiful story about cultures being exchanged and cross-cultural acceptances,” Buzzell said.
The story and the musical pieces from the play, including “Getting To Know You,” and “Shall We Dance,” have become a beloved part of American culture.
“It’s an old-time story, so seniors and people in that generation know it so well and know the classic pieces,” said April Foley of North Andover, who plays Anna in the production. “It’s a show where everyone sings along and leaves feeling great.”
Although the play is set in 1862, the production is getting an infusion of young energy, with about 20 local kids ages 7 to 12 in the cast.
“We even have a few mother-kid combinations,” Buzzell said. “It’s a real family affair.”
In total, the cast includes 48 performers of all ages. Buzzell said that working with such an assortment of age and experience levels is fun, but challenging.
“The group has to be geared toward the youngest member,” he said. “It gives us a lot of opportunity for different types of expression.”
The story of Siam also comes alive through the bright costumes that Pentucket Players rented and made to give the show an authentic feel.
“The costumes are absolutely visually stunning,” said Foley, who had to learn to navigate the stage in a massive hoop skirt. “They’re the costumes of the time. It’s amazing that women actually wore these things.”
Pentucket Players performed “The King and I” back in 1996 at Haverhill City Hall. However, Buzzell said that this time being on a professional stage with a full orchestra gives an added element to the well-loved story.
“It affords us much more opportunity,” he said.
If You Go What: Pentucket Players presents "The King and I." Where: Rogers Center for the Performing Arts, Merrimack College, 315 Turnpike St., North Andover. When: Nov. 29 at 8 p.m., Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. How: Tickets are $24, at www.pentucketplayers.org or by calling 978-521-9259.