Last year, Dean John Wilson was playing the title role in Disney’s Aladdin in the West End. He is now about to embark on another huge role in The King and I at the iconic London Palladium. We caught up with him during rehearsals for a chat about the show…
The King and I is a classic musical that many people grew up with. What are your memories/experiences of the show?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Rogers and Hammerstein’s music, my first memory of this production was when I was 7 years old watching the movie. It was a film that was regularly aired around that time, the songs are timeless and have stuck with me until today.
The show is based on a true story. Have you done much digging into the historical background of the show?
I felt it was helpful for me to look into cultural differences between the east and the west, also understand social class and etiquette of that time towards royalty. I feel that this show delivers an important message that is so relevant today, giving this story a powerful and timeless punch.
You will play opposite Na-Young Jeon as the two lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim. They are separated by cultural differences. Do you think their story will strike a chord with today’s audiences?
We live in a world where women are still not offered equal right and opportunity as men, and this production fundamentally approaches this subject matter without any apologies. We hope that our relationship in the show confirms that love will always overcome and win regardless of the situation or time
The show is known for being opulent and a spectacle. What can audiences look forward to?
This show holds something for everyone, as I mentioned it delivers an important message. The set and costume design is nothing short of exquisite, this show holds a tremendous amount of class. Not forgetting both tour de force performances delivered by none other than both broadway royalty Tony award winning Miss Kelli O’Hara and Oscar nominee Ken wantanabe.
Previously you played the titular role in the equally spectacular Aladdin. Are big West End musicals where you feel most at home?
I have been very fortunate to have played in large prestigious theatres including The national theatre, the prince Edward and now the iconic London Palladium. I’d love to continue to tell stories to audiences on a mass scale.
The King and I will be playing at the historic London Palladium. Are you looking forward to working on such an iconic stage?
London palladium has always been a theatre that I associated London with, when it came to big theatre shows. It is an honour to finally get to play here.
Rodgers and Hammerstein were ground-breaking pioneers of musical theatre. Who in your view, is revolutionary in musical theatre today?
I think there a number of up and coming pioneers when it comes to musical theatre, but I think the work of Lin Manuel – Miranda is revolutionary
Finally, why should audiences come and relive or discover the King and I?
This show is a must see, with a timely classic story, those who think that this is a dated story, it is, however this message is very powerful and poignant and so very prevalent for today with regards to women’s equal rights. It also has songs that will stay with you for a lifetime. Do not miss it!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
Interview by Harrison Fuller
Buy tickets to The King and I