From “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’” to “So Long, Farewell,” Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals are filled with hellos and goodbyes. So it is with any long-running production of one of these shows: cast and crew leave and others take their places.
The LCT production of The King and I has followed a vaunted tradition for leave-takings. Before the final performance of a cast or crew member, all the backstage talent assemble before show-time to trill a chorus of “Happy Trails” to the honoree. This practice tends to be followed by most Broadway shows or national tours, and none of my scholarly digging could determine who started the salute.
The singing usually takes place before a Sunday matinee, as it is the final performance of the work week. This past weekend’s second matinee was not, it turned out, the week’s last show; there was a special Actor’s Fund benefit on Sunday night. But ritual prevailed and the valedictory ceremony took place before the matinee. We were bidding goodbye to dresser Maggie Orzechowski and musical director Ted Sperling, who has conducted the majority of King and I performances over the past six months. (Andrew Resnick will be picking up the baton.)
Orzechowski spoke after the singing. “Thank you for all the laughs and for all the treats,” she said, taking a metaphorical bow. Her brevity allowed the cast, especially the children, to dig more quickly into the goodies that had been laid out for the commemoration. It was a dream night for kids of all ages in the cast: between shows pizza was provided by what production stage manager Jennifer Rae Moore announced was a “guardian angel.”
The pizza was consumed in the ballet room on LCT’s ground floor. Soft drinks completed the meal. In a nearby refrigerator, before the matinee, I spied Sperling stocking a more adult libation: champagne. Pop those corks, Ted: you deserve to be toasted!
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.