It’s 15 minutes to curtain, and I’m sitting on a sofa in The King and I’s male-ensemble dressing room. Over the past decade, this large space, containing lockers and multiple dressing-table mirrors, has been known as The Barracks (South Pacific) and The Stable (War Horse). On this occasion, I forget to ask what it has been designated for the members of the royal household. I am talking to one of them, Kelvin Moon Loh, about the cast’s contribution to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’s annual Gypsy of the Year talent show.
That contest will be held next Monday and Tuesday, but the King cast has been collecting donations after every performance for the cause for several weeks. I sought out Loh because he is serving as writer, director, and main actor for The King and I skit. “It will include 15 cast members,” Loh tells me. “No kids. Mostly members of the ensemble, except for Ruthie Ann Miles. Ruthie has been a gypsy herself” – a member of the chorus. “When we put out the call for our skit, she was the first to sign up.”
When it comes to creating sketch numbers, Loh is no novice. “I’ve written plenty of spoofs, as well as full-length plays and musicals,” he said. One of them premiered in 2011 at the New York Music Theatre Festival. It concerned online dating and was called Matchmaker Matchmaker I’m Willing To Settle! (Does The King and I director, Bartlett Sher, who is currently in previews with Fiddler on the Roof, know about this?) Loh’s current project is a web series about “the gay Asian-American experience” called No Rice.
As for the Gypsy of the Year skit, Loh said, “It’s been brewing in my head for weeks. It started out as a 16-minute skit, but we’re getting it down to 3 minutes, which is the time we are allotted.” The choreography is by King cast member Bennyroyce Royon, who, midway through my chat with Loh, joined our backstage discussion.
Royon, who has a company called Bennyroyce Dance, said, “Politics can be a circus, so I want my work here to reflect that. Also, for this sketch the choreography needed to be gestural.”
Circus? Gestural? Just what kind of Gypsy of the Year skit are these guys dreaming up? “It’s based on the ballet from The King and I,” Loh said. “It’s called ‘The Small House of Bernie Sanders.’ I’m really interested in current events, and in the Presidential race, so I couldn’t resist.”
Loh provided a few more details about the skit, but as I am a big believer in the value of theatrical surprise I will not divulge them. Look to lct.org in a week or so, after the Gypsy of the Year competition has been completed, for more information, and perhaps even a video of the performance.
In the meantime, those of you who wish to feel the Kelvin-and-Benny bern in person can purchase Gypsy of the Year tickets at www.broadwaycares.org/gypsy2015.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.