Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I is one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The story is based in part on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a widow who served as a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s. The 1951 musical was adapted into a film in 1956, both starring Yul Brynner as the titular King (he’s one of my favorite characters).
The King and I has many wonderful musical moments; one of my favorites is “The March of the Siamese Children” which takes place relatively early in the story. Anna (Deborah Kerr) is upset that she must stay in the royal palace next to the harem (instead of in a little house of her own as she’d been promised) and is on the verge of returning to England straight away. However, before she goes, the King insists that Anna meet his children first. If she still wants to leave after meeting them, he won’t stop her.
The march then begins with children being led in one by one by their nurses. Each child comes forward, bows to their father, greets Anna by touching their forehead to her hands and then backs away to sit with the royal wives (their respective mothers).
The music is a beautiful theme and variations that repeats over and over, altering slightly for certain children. The most notable change is when Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, the King’s heir marches in; the music here changes to a stirring brass fanfare as befits the heir to the throne. Unlike the other children, Chulalongkorn and the King bow to each other and Anna is told to curtsy to the Crown Prince.
There are some other humorous moments, some of my favorites being:
- The twins: The two boys (not surprisingly) are dressed identically and the King seems quite pleased with them.
- The forgetful princess: one of the younger daughters accidentally turns her back on her father and when he reminds her with a mock gasp of shock/horror, she quickly turns around with a look of surprise (the King isn’t all that angry with her, as she is still young)
- The curious prince: one prince comes out looking very curiously at Anna the entire time and it quickly becomes clear why: he’s never seen someone with Anna’s huge skirts before. He’s curious to see exactly what’s under there…but the King quickly stops that idea.
- “I want a hug!”: One daughter forgets where she is and runs to the King for a hug, only to be stopped with a stern look. When the dejected princess begins to back away, she is reassured by the King with a warm smile (which she returns).
- The littlest princess: Possibly the most adorable moment comes at the very end when the youngest daughter comes out. She is so small that the King doesn’t see her until she tugs on his pant leg for attention. He then guides her through what she needs to do (it’s adorable!)
Once all the children are assembled, Anna realizes she can’t possibly leave them to return to England (which is what the King thought would happen) and she agrees to stay after all, to the delight of the royal children.
“The March of the Siamese Children” is a delightful moment from a wonderful film and I hope you enjoy it.
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