Lisa Condit spoke with Worcester’s “true celebrity,” Bartlett Sher, director of a stunning production of “The King and I” coming to The Hanover Theatre next spring. Read on for highlights from the September 9 WCRN interview, or listen to the full interview below.
Lisa: Bart, you are the epitome of a story here in Worcester. You went to College of the Holy Cross, and you have a wonderful career. You are a Tony® Award winner.
Bartlett: I very much loved living in Worcester. It’s an extraordinary and beautiful city. I’ve since been all over the country and all over the world directing. “The Kind and I” is a play that we did almost two years ago now at Lincoln Center. It’s one of the great musicals in the history of the musical theatre canon, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It’s a very special, profound, uplifting, moving, powerful piece of musical theatre. It means a lot to me that the show’s in Worcester. Worcester had a huge impact on my life.
Lisa: I saw it at Lincoln Center and was completely mesmerized. Every piece of that musical is enjoyable. It’s also a really big piece of work.
Bartlett: The first thing I ask myself about any sort of revival is, “What is the immediate significance of the piece now? What resonates?” When it came to “King and I,” it was the education of women in the third world. It’s extraordinary what Anna Leonowens does. She goes to Thailand at a great time of change and she educates these young women with the children of the kingdom. And it’s also about how leaders actually accept and transform or change, themselves.
Lisa: Were there any big challenges?
Bartlett: What’s extraordinary about “The King and I” is that it’s a big show with a huge cast and a full ballet in the middle of it, a huge number of moving pieces. When you’re developing something like that, and you want to do big, epic storytelling, like a 17th century “Game of Thrones” kind of story, set to music, the challenge is really to find something that can delight and open an audience to something they don’t know about. It’s one of the most special things I’ve ever worked on.
What is your favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical?