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Getting to Know Them! Spotlight on THE KING AND I's Top 5 Annas in Broadway History

When the latest Rodgers and Hammerstein revival, THE KING AND I, opens in just over a week, starring Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara, it will be the show's fifth Broadway production. Over the past six decades since the production originally opened on Broadway, basically only Yul Brynner has played the King of Siam, earning him the unofficial title of "The King of The King and I." However, many different women have donned the gorgeous gown to sing "Shall We Dance?" on the Great White Way since the original 1951 Broadway version. In honor of the upcoming revival, BroadwayWorld brings you a look back at the Top 5 women who have portrayed Anna in The King and I on Broadway.

Gertrude Lawrence, 1951 Original Broadway Cast

Lawrence originated the role and took home a Tony Award for her performance, alongside Yul Brynner. Fun fact: The show earned five Tonys, including Best Musical, though the Best Score award was not given out that year, for some reason, so Rodgers did not win a Tony for this show. Since this production took place before the Tony Awards were broadcast on CBS, there is no video from the original version, but we do have the audio from the cast recording. So below, listen to Lawrence's rendition of "I Whistle a Happy Tune."

Deborah Kerr/Marni Nixon, 1956 (Film)

I suppose I said this was a spotlight on those who have played Anna on Broadway... I suppose I lied. Kerr was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal, but lost to Ingrid Bergman from ANASTASIA. And of course, like what seemed to be a trend in so many movie musicals of the '50s and '60s, Marni Nixon provided her vocal talents to sing for the star in The King and I. Fun fact: Rita Moreno played Tuptim in this film, which was before she famously won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in WEST SIDE STORY. Below, watch Deborah Kerr perform "Hello Young Lovers."

Angela Lansbury, 1977 (First Revival)

Though she is best known for her roles in shows like MAME, GYPSY, and SWEENEY TODD, Angela Lansbury actually played a brief stint as Anna in The King and I in April 1978, replacing Constance Towers. Again, no video for this performance, but check out this bootlegged audio version of "Shall We Dance?" Fun fact: The show received no awards, but among its nominations, Lansbury, not Towers, actually received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical.

Donna Murphy, 1996 (Revival)

Murphy won her second Tony Award for her portrayal, though she was not nominated in any other prominent award organizations. Her award was one of four Tonys earned by the production, including Best Revival, which was quite a feat considering it was up against prominent revivals like that of HELLO, DOLLY! starring Carol Channing. Fun fact: This was the same year that Audra McDonald won her second Tony Award, for MASTER CLASS. Check out the Tonys performance, introduced by Nathan Lane, featuring Murphy, Lou Diamond Phillips, and of course the adorable children.

Faith Prince, 1996 (Revival)

Having already received a Tony nomination for JEROME ROBBINS' BROADWAY and a Tony Award for her performance as Miss Adelaide in GUYS AND DOLLS, Prince took over as Anna during the Tony Award-winning revival alongside Phillips. She has since received two additional Tony nominations for BELLS ARE RINGING and A CATERED AFFAIR. Check out this lovely picture of her as Anna with Lou Diamond Phillips as the King of Siam.

Bonus: Julie Andrews, 1977 (MUPPETS Performance)

While she has never played the role on Broadway, Julie Andrews did sing "I Whistle a Happy Tune," on THE MUPPETS SHOW when she guest-starred in 1978. Fun Fact: Andrews sang the role of Anna in the 1992 Hollywood studio recording of The King and I, which incidentally also featured Lea Salonga as Tuptim. Watch Andrews' adorable rendition with the Muppets below!

Are you excited to see Kelli O'Hara join the ranks of women who have starred in THE KING AND I?

Lincoln Center Theater's The King and I, which features a cast led by Kelli O'Hara (as Anna Leonowens) and Ken Watanabe (as the King of Siam), is directed by Bartlett Sher, is currently in previews ahead of an official opening night on Thursday, April 16 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street).

One of Rodgers & Hammerstein's finest works, The King and I boasts a score which features such beloved classics as Getting To Know You, Hello Young Lovers, Shall We Dance, I Have Dreamed, and Something Wonderful. Set in 1860's Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the imperious King brings to Siam to tutor his many wives and children.

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From This Author Sally Henry

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