The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

TVAC's The King & I Debuts Nov. 10


November 9, 2017

Michael Luce

The King (Sean Calvert) and Anna (Nyssa Zanger) dance together.

Music, sets, costumes and actors combine for a captivating show

DAYTON – Stunning sets, elaborate costumes, talented actors and a complicated Broadway score will surely captivate audiences who attend the Touchet Valley Arts Council's fall live musical production of Rodger's and Hammerstein's The King and I which will debut on the Liberty Theater stage on Fri., Nov. 10.

This 17th annual TVAC production is based on the book, "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon and tells the story of Anna Leonowens who was sent to Siam (modern Thailand) to tutor the children and wives of the king. However, the king has a hidden agenda of using Anna to bring his "barbarian" country into favor with the modern world.

The production is directed by Liberty Theater stage veteran and TVAC Productions Chair Elizabeth Arabelos-Jagelski, who acted in the theater's very first live production of The Music Man in 2001. She has participated in dozens of musicals since then. She last directed Cinderella in 2014 and played the mother in last year's production of A Christmas Story.

Arabelos-Jagelski is quick to credit longtime stage musicians Dr. Randy Pearson and Jim Thorn, who she refers to as the Great Dynamic Duo, as the "unsung heroes" of the production.

"The music is so complicated and Jim and Randy are able to play with the professional ability required by a Broadway score – something most musicians can't do," she said. "They perform instinctively as one and need the least direction of any group because they are so professional, she added.

Arabelos-Jagelski said it is nearly impossible to single out individuals when talking about the show's cast and crew.

"I really look forward to the togetherness of over 80 people coming together and volunteering their time for the community. That is something you rarely see other than in cases of an emergency or tragedy," she said.

Nyssa Zanger and Sean Calvert play the lead roles of Anna and the King. Zanger is a TVAC veteran, who recently moved to Walla Walla. Calvert, who lives in College Place, is new to the Liberty stage.

"It is a huge commitment for them to travel to Dayton for rehearsals, but they've done it. Both Nyssa and Sean have their entire families participating in the play along with them, so it's a family endeavor," Arabelos-Jagelski said. "It's incredible to watch the main characters because they are in nearly every scene. They work tirelessly."

"One challenge has been converting western people to Siamese people in regard to behavior and voice dialect, but the actors have been meeting that challenge, Arabelos-Jagelski said.

The cast has gone to great lengths to become as authentic as possible. Actor Justin Jaech, who has lived in Thailand, and Thai exchange student, Ing Phoolpipat, have both spent time working with actors on their accents and mannerisms.

Arabelos-Jagelski said that the elaborate costuming is one of the reasons some companies shy away from producing The King and I. TVAC's Mary Luce, along with her team of talented tailors and seamstresses, has not shied from the challenge.

"Anna wears one skirt that we have named Big Bertha because it's so huge. When blocking the actors, we have to treat the skirt as an entire person," Arabelos-Jagelski said, laughing.

Michael Luce

The King tells a stubborn Anna that she should stay in place where the children need her. l to r: Nyssa Zanger, Kayla Kuykendall, Joel Calvert, Sean Calvert.

"Getting to Know You" and "Shall we Dance?" are two of the musical highlights in one of Broadway's longest-running shows in history. Choreographer Darla Brownell-Tubbs has traveled from Spokane to work with her team, Tracy Barron and Julia Mead and Brenda Henderson has stepped in to choreograph the many children in the production.

"It is always so fun to watch a production evolve from a simple thought into its own person. We started out as a little child and now we're off and running. I hope people come out and get excited about what we've done," Arabelos-Jagelski said.

Roger and Hammerstein's The King & I will begin its 13-performance run on Nov. 10 and will run through Dec. 2. On Family Night (Nov. 10) and Encore Night (Nov. 30), tickets are specially priced at $10. Tickets may be purchased online at, at the Liberty Theater box office, by calling (509) 382-1380. To learn more, call or email


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