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Cultures and relationships clash when a resourceful English governess who is charged with educatiing a small army of royal offspring meets the imperious king in "The king and I," staged from July 18 to Aug. 6 at Mountain Playhouse, Jennerstown. Laura Beth Wells stars as the governess and Rob Ventre portrays the king. Submitted Photo/ the Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, PA.

East will meet West when Anna dances with the King of Siam.

The much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” premieres Tuesday at Mountain Playhouse, Jennerstown, and will run through Aug. 6.

Chan Harris, who directed “Always ... Pasty Cline” and “5/31/89: The Flood” for the playhouse, is returning to take on the royal family in 1862 Bangkok.

“When I first heard I would be doing ‘The King and I,’ I gritted my teeth and thought, ‘That old warhorse, it will be boring,’ ” Harris said. “After working on the script, I saw what a beautiful show it is. I’m going to bring it into the modern world and not make it a historical chestnut.”

Most of the production is set at the royal palace and grounds, with one scene onboard ship as Anna, the governess, journeys to Siam.

The resourceful English woman will be played by Laura Beth Wells, a newcomer to the playhouse.

The imperious King of Siam will be played by Rob Ventre, another playhouse newcomer.

“We’re lucky to have them,” Harris said.

“Rob came into the audition and looked like a king. He has the passion for being royal.”

Harris has had to reduce the usually large cast down to 32 performers.

“I’ve had to whittle down to the essence of who they are,” Harris said.

Other adult cast members include Kaitlin Stilwell, Tiffany Peters, Wayne Schroder, Jason Forbach, Nick Ruggeri, Neil Casey and Angela Van Slyke.

The many offspring of the king, as well as the royal wives and other members of the court, will be played by local children and teens.

James Marafino, 13, of Jennerstown, will play the crown prince, and Michael Mekata, 12, will play Anna’s son.

The royal wives will be played by Elizabeth Marafino, 16, of Jennerstown; Gabrielle Vanderhoff, 16, of Richland; Catherine Janesko, 15, and Krystyna Ahlers, 18, both of Johnstown; and Shawnee Baird, 15, of Bolivar.

The royal princes and princesses will be played by Hunter Tresnicky, 13, and Elizabeth Thomas, 13, both of Hollsopple; Ashley May, 11, of Sipesville; Annabeth Rodgers Faucher, 13, and Christi Faucher, 9, both of Johnstown; Sierra Kosmac, 11, of Sidman; Ashley Beener, 11, of Rockwood; and Matthew Barndt, 10, of Somerset.

Harris, who has visited Bali, will be using dances from that country for storytelling to give the play an Eastern feel.

The show is being choreographed by Jacob Toth and will deviate from the original Jerome Robbins choreography and employ a dance style more typical to the region.

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