Full-sized in every sense of the word, Broadway in Tucson's touring production of “The King and I” continues a phenomenal theater season of one stage triumph after another for several companies here in the Baked Apple.

Just as “The King and I” did in New York at Lincoln Center, according to online reports, this traveling Titanic never sinks but celebrates its size and wonder right to the very last note. Just like on opening night in Tucson.

Both Jose Llana as The King and Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna the feisty British school teacher have held starring roles in other Broadway shows. Now they are out on the road in this all-Equity effort because veteran director Bartlett Sher (who directed the Lincoln Center revival) also put this tour together.

Quality in depth was the other king onstage.

This is the fourth revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “The King and I,” with a score that includes at least six classic show tunes, depending on how you weigh them. For sure the list includes “I Whistle A Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting To Know You,” “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Shall We Dance.”

The kingdom of Siam is richly represented in the elaborate detail of costumes, sets and furnishings. A cast of 36 keeps the stage filled with singers, dancers, Siamese court figures and children. The special ballet feature, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” is a work of art in itself.

Within seconds after the opening curtain, a massive sailing ship sticks its prow out over the orchestra pit, then we see Anna and the ship's captain on a dangerous looking wharf. Before the first note is sung, it has been made clear that for the next two hours and fifty-five minutes all stops will be pulled.

Looking beneath this gorgeous, sumptuous surface are the strong bones of a classic show written at the beginning of what has become one of the most tumultuous periods of social change in American history – from 1951 to now.

Did the two composers really see the end of colonial empires, the rise of developing nations, the patronizing of one race by another, the determination of white women to have a say in the leadership of their own society? We'd like to think they did. All the real social change has taken place in the audience.

No doubt all four of those revivals peeled back more layers of different meaning, finding in both the song lyrics and relationships Anna formed not just just with the King but also with the most significant of his wives, Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla), the young lovers Tuptim (Q Lim) and Lun Tha (Kavin Panmeechao, and the King's children, innocent of the cultural differences between England the colonial power and Siam the naive nation with its progressive leader.

The King and I” runs through March 18, with performances at 7:30 p.m. March 14-15; 8 p.m. March 16; 2 and 8 p.m. March 17; 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 18, in Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., at the University of Arizona. Tickets are $29 - $125. For details and reservations, or at the Centennial Hall box office.


photo by Tim Fuller
From left, Patty Gallagher, Cynthia Meier and Holly Griffith are "Three Tall Women."

Edward Albee captures both the enormity of life and the simplicity of life all at once in one person with “Three Tall Women,” an iconic piece of theater written later in Albee's own life. The Rogue Theatre, too, captures this ethereal intent in a fine production directed with classic finesse by Christopher Johnson.

Unlike contemporary theater full of gimmicks and political agendas, “Three Tall Women” which opened off-Broadway in 1994, stands solidly in the four square tradition of raising ethical questions about the deeper meanings of life – in the manner of Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill.

Structurally, Albee has three actors on stage together representing the three stages of one person's life, a life generally assumed to be inspired by Albee's own mother. The theater program identified the cast members as A (Cynthia Meier), B (Patty Gallagher) and C (Holly Griffith). Their ages, respectively, are 92, 52 and 26.

Ryan Parker Knox has a prominent but brief non-speaking role as The Young Man.

In the first act, A is nearing her death and feeling bitter about its arrival. B has no such urgency and so has more patience with A's idiosyncrasies, which also implies B feels a little bit superior. Meanwhile, C is so convinced of the strength of her own youth, she wants nothing to do with A or B.

Act Two implies more of an abstract view as all three, in their bedside reflections on A (who passed away during intermission), have been changed by their earlier discussions with the other two.

For the first time, a smile crosses A's face. Death has made her more philosophical, it seems, in looking back on all the disappointments she had to endure. As for B and C, while they aren't exactly happier, their perspective has changed.

It is Albee's insightful characterizations and his brilliant use of language that makes the dialogue crackle. He fills their talk with humor, as well. It can also make you feel uncomfortable when Albee gets you laughing at a situation that would be tragic if it happened to one of your own friends.

It does seem the older you are, the more you will appreciate “Three Tall Women.” All the actors deliver nuanced performances that express distinctly different attitudes, each feeling precisely right for the setting,

Now that her life is over, A can look back and laugh at how silly it was to believe finding the right men to be her husband was so important. B heartily agrees. The man she ended with was hardly handsome or personable. But he did have a goodly sum of money.

As for their lovers, well, that concept of fidelity seemed laughable to A and B, as well. Only C, both cynical and idealistic depending on the subject, insisted it was important to find the right man. Irony is added as C's determination follows the ridicule of A and B.

We in the audience are left with the impression that getting good grades, going to the right school, finding the right man, having the strongest career, raising the most successful children, is not really what is important. Nor can it be achieved, even with flawless planning.

Instead, we walk away feeling convinced the Rogue Theatre's production of “Three Tall Women” is more of a massage for the brain, an invigorating experience to stir your desire for dividing up your own life into three parts and weighing out each one,

Three Tall Women” runs through March 25, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (additional matinees 2 p.m. March 17 and 24), at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Tickets are $38. Student rush 15 minutes before curtain, $15. For details and reservations, 551-2053, or visit