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'The King and I' debuts in Fulda

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe King Montkut, played by Mike Peterson, lectures Linda Lund's character, Anna, in a scene from the Fulda Community Players' production of "The King and I." Performances begin Friday and continue through Sunday in the Fulda Elementary School gymnasium.

FULDA -- To play the part of the king, Fulda's Mike Peterson shaved off his mustache and cut his hair very short. That was the easy part.

"The hard part was getting a middle-aged, slightly overweight Norwegian to play a physically fit, bald Oriental man," Peterson said. "That is a challenge."

The Fulda Community Players will debut "The King and I" at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Fulda Elementary School gymnasium, with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Auditions were back in December, but one of the biggest challenges, according to director Wilma Lindquist, was coordinating schedules and setting a date for the performances.

"There were so many interferences," Lindquist said. "We started earlier than usual, then had to deal with sports, then speech, then track. It's been one thing after another."

With a cast that ranges in age from 6 months old to 65 years old and including 53 people, that's a lot of schedules to coordinate.

"There are 13 elementary school children, and they keep things pretty lively," Lindquist added.

The female lead of Anna is played by Linda Lund, a veteran performer.

"I love my character," she stated. "I like the gutsy woman, willing to head into a completely unknown country."

Getting the feel of characters who are of a different culture was a challenge, as was getting the huge cast into costume, Lund said.

"The play itself is thoroughly entertaining, with great comedic lines, pathos and good music," Lund added.

"The King and I," based on the book "Anna and the King of Siam," is a true story, Lindquist said, and revolves around the cultural changes between the Oriental culture and that of Anna, a British schoolteacher who became governess to the children of King Montkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein production has a number of popular songs, including, "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," and "Western People Funny."

Choreographer Heidi Drealan, who had the challenge of teaching both children and adults of the cast to dance for the ballet scene, "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," said it has been great to work with everyone, especially the younger cast members.

Fulda Community Education Coordinator Lindy Larson is seeing a production come together from a totally new angle. Larson's daughter is one of the children in the play, so she is experiencing it from the perspective of someone who needs to get to rehearsals and is dealing with the cast directly.

"It is my first musical," Larson said. "It is amazing how much work and effort goes into it for everyone."

For Lindquist, the effort and time is a labor of love. This is the 25th show the Fulda Community Players have performed, and she has directed each and every one, with the assistance of Margaret Popp.

Last week, Lindquist was hospitalized with viral pneumonia, but said she is feeling better now.

"All of our main roles this year are old hat at this," Lindquist revealed. "And the rest of the cast and crew are very essential."

She couldn't do a production, especially a musical, without Popp's help, and accompanist Sherri Isder is a "one-man band," Lindquist said.

Tickets to "The King and I" are available through community ed, at Maynard's Food Center, Ramerth Hardware, from any cast member or at the door.