When approaching his portrayal of the King in The Augusta Players’ production of The King and I, Michael Hamilton felt he only had one choice.
“Yul Brynner is associated with this role so strongly,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been studying him and seeing how he plays the King. I’ve got to get inside Yul Brynner’s head.”
Brynner performed in the film version and portrayed the King on stage more than 4,600 times in 30 years.
To capture Brynner’s essence, Hamilton started preparing for the role more than a year ago in hopes of being cast in it. He lost 50 pounds, shaved his head and has watched the film numerous times.
Hamilton saw Brynner perform the role on Broadway in 1980 and has never forgotten the audience’s reaction to the actor’s commanding presence as he stepped on stage.
“When he walked on stage, there was a collective gasp,” said Hamilton who has been working to get Brynner’s posture and mannerisms down.
The toughest part of becoming Brynner as the King of Siam has been adopting his posture and learning his dialect.
“His posture is absolutely erect. I have to keep my head up,” he said. “Then, there are his mannerisms. He puts his hands on his hips and his hands behind his back. His dialect is a puzzlement. It’s distinctive in the dialogue. He drops the articles as though he’s speaking in broken English. It’s fun, but it’s been a challenge.”
To capture other nuances Brynner brought to the film adaptation, some modifications have been made to the script.
“The king in the movie is more multidimensional. He’s funny, intelligent, but that doesn’t always come through in the stage version. We’ve included some of the movie dialogue,” he said.
The King and I will be staged at 8 p.m. May 10-11 and 3 p.m. May 12 at Imperial Theatre. For more information, call (706) 826-4707 or see augustaplayers.org.