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‘The King and I’ is the Rep’s holiday gift starting Friday.

THEY SHALL DANCE: Solie and Acevedo.
  • THEY SHALL DANCE: Solie and Acevedo.

Lavish family musicals, complete with children in the cast and plenty of color, are gift-wrapped by Arkansas Repertory Theatre every December, and this year’s offering is the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “The King and I,” opening Friday, Dec. 1.

The much-loved show, a winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical when it debuted on Broadway in 1951, will run through Dec. 31, with a number of special matinees also scheduled for the holiday season.

Set in Bangkok in the mid-1800s and based on a true story, “The King and I” is considered one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most enchanting love stories. Cultures clash when Anna, a young English widow, is hired by the stern king of Siam to tutor his many children in Western ways. The show produced such well-known songs as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You,” “Shall We Dance,” “Hello Young Lovers” and “Something Wonderful.”

Brad Mooy, the show’s director and the Rep’s artistic director, says, “This is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best musicals: the music soars, the choreography shimmers and the costumes gleam. Best of all, though, the beloved classic wins with surprising intelligence, humor and vitality. This one should warm every heart.”

Enrique Acevedo stars as the King, with Sarah Solie and Anna, Wayne Hu as Lun Tha and Luz Lor as Tuptim. Acevedo has toured regionally in the musical as well as performed in European tours of “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Judas and “Grease” as Danny. Solie performed on Broadway in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Steel Pier,” “High Society” and “Lestat.” Lor preformed on Broadway in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and toured nationally in “The King and I.”

Mooy’s cast of 47 actors includes 21 local children.

Rep production manager Rafael Colon Castanera is overseeing more than 200 19th-century royal Thai costumes, many of which were featured in a recent national tour and a 2000 West End production of the show. Lighting design is by Andrew Meyers, a returning guest artist who worked on last year’s Rep holiday show, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” The Rep’s Mike Nichols is the set designer. Resident musical director Kristy L. Nicholson directs a seven-member band, and choreography is by Zhenjun Zhang, who did the 1996 Broadway and 2000 West End productions.

Regular performance times are 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays along with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Additional performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 19 and Dec. 26, with 1 p.m. public matinee performances on Dec. 2, Dec. 20, Dec. 21, Dec. 23, Dec. 27 and Dec. 30. There are no shows on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.

A special sneak preview performance Thursday, Nov. 30, includes a pre-show discussion with Mooy at 6:15 p.m. The opening night performance Friday includes a post-show reception with the cast in the lobby. The show’s Dec. 6 performance will be sign-interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Tickets are $50 for orchestra seating and $35 for first and second mezzanine seating. Call 378-0405 or 1-866-6-THEREP or visit online at www.therep.org.

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