THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
25 August 2003
I wasn't really thrilled when the editor told me he wanted me to cover the awards
ceremony for the Woodland Opera House. Covering a
show is one thing--you go and see the play and then you review the performances, if
it's really bad you give a plot summary and don't review the performances. It's
pretty formulaic after 3 years.
It also might be somewhat interesting to attend an award show where someone you know
has been nominated, or where you've seen the productions considered. Even when you are shy
like me, there is some appeal (however minimal) to attending such a ceremony.
But even then, I'd have to rethink how I write articles--this would be really covering
an event, which I'd never done before.
My situation wasn't even that appealing. I have only recently taken over as the
reviewer for the Woodland Opera House. The previous reviewer is cutting back on her actual
reviews and concentrating on her feature writing. This is good for me because now that I'm
out of Dr. G's office, it means I'll be getting double the work (and seeing double the
performances). But to date I have only seen one performance at the Woodland Opera
House (which was not one of the nominated shows) and thus I know nobody in the company and
have seen none of the nominated productions.
And he wanted 12 column inches (about 400 words).
I could do this, I told my self, not really very confident, and gritting my teeth at
those ominous words: "reception preceding the ceremonies." I wasn't sure if I
needed to go to the reception or not. I'm not one to introduce myself to strangers and
make small talk, but in case I needed to pad the report, I thought it might help to get
some of the "ambience," so I went.
I had a phone call right before I left and I ended up rushed, so didn't have
time to fix myself dinner. I stopped at Jack in the Box, a couple of blocks away, and got
a plain cheeseburger. I managed to park directly in front of the opera house plaza and
just sat there, munching my cheeseburger, watching the people come to the reception,
wishing I were home in front of the television set instead, and trying to gather my
courage to get out of the car and join the group.
As it turned out, the reception wasn't totally awful. There were actually a
couple of people there I knew and I chatted with them for a bit, but they were there
schmoozing, as they should, so eventually I had nobody to talk to. I sat behind the guy
who was sitting at a keyboard, wearing piano keyboard suspenders and batting out show
tunes and I listened to him run through a few numbers. I wandered around taking pictures
of the facade of the building and pretended like I wasn't feeling out of place.
As soon as they opened up the theatre for people to go in, I did, seated myself in the
back, and studied every single word of the six page program about a bazillion times,
kicking myself for forgetting the cardinal rule taught to me years ago by Sherman Lewis: "always
bring a book to read."
Finally the ceremonies started and I gave a big sigh and settled in to become
To my astonishment it...wasn't horrible. In fact, as it was ending I realized I had
actually enjoyed myself. Everyone was so enthusiastic and everyone was having such a good
The run away hit was The King and I, which won every single award for musical.
The woman who played Tuptim said that it was the very best cast she'd ever been part of, a
sentiment that seemed to be echoed by everyone else in that show.
It was easy to see why there was such high enthusiasm for the production when Andrew
Hasegawa bounded up on the stage to accept his award for his performance as the king.
"This sure beats drilling teeth," he said. I figured he was a dentist, but I
wasn't ready for his whole story.
Yes, he's a dentist--or perhaps more accurately, a former dentist, from Montreal,
who had learned of this production by checking the Internet to see where in California a
community theatre was going to be doing The King and I.
I had enough material already for my story, but I couldn't let this guy go without
interviewing him after the ceremonies. What a delightful guy. He confided that he'd been a
dentist, but the stress got to him and he had to give up his practice when he had "a
At some point he discovered that a theatre company in Montreal was doing "The King
and I" and though he had no real theatre experience he decided that it would be a fun
thing for his whole family to do together, so they all auditioned. He got the lead, his
wife was one of the wives and his children were, of course, some of the children.
The experience was so positive that he went looking for other productions that were
auditioning for a King (as I told him, obviously there was an opening now that Yul Brynner
is gone!). He found a production in Alameda (California) last year and did that show
(interestingly, Jeri has played in the pit band for the Alameda Civic Light Opera Co., but
she missed the production of King and i.
At the end of last year, he went to the Internet looking for yet another opportunity to
do his favorite show and found that there were only two companies in California who were
doing it. He essentially auditioned the venues and decided he loved the Woodland Opera
House so he auditioned and again was cast. (I'm not sure what he's going to do next
He was just a delightful person, very vivacious, thrilled to be involved (and thrilled
to have won). He was so thrilled by this production that he actually bought
the costume drawings for the show, framed them, and they hang in his living room at home,
Obviously his enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm of the director, Ray Fisher, had infected
the entire cast.
It made the evening a very positive one for this fledgling reporter. Not only that, I
came home and batted out my review quickly. I'm getting good at this stuff! (Now if I
could only overcome my reluctance to introduce myself to people and actually talk
to them, I'd be a lot more effective!)