Interview with Raymond Dimaano from “The King and I”

Raymond Dimaano – Ensemble and Understudy of the Kralahome

What is “The King and I” about?
“”The King and I” is this beautiful Rodgers & Hammerstein classic about a king who juggles the old traditional way of doing things and a new modern way of doing things, when an English teacher named Mrs. Anna comes to Siam to teach the King’s children and wife.”

What part do you play in “The King and I”?
“I am Ensemble but I’m understudying the role of the Kralahome, which is sort of like the prime minister of Siam. So for example, the king is in charge of everyone and then right under him is the Kralahome.”

Was the Kralahome the character you wanted to play or was there another character that you auditioned for?
“I am a professional makeup artist but I love performing and I told myself if I could just work professionally in the performing world for 2 years then I would move up to New York City. I did that and moved up to NYC in January and then I auditioned for “The King and I” right after I moved. I was just so excited to audition for my first really big tour that when they gave me a callback for the Kralahome I was just ecstatic!”

As the understudy to the Kralahome, is there a way that you portray the character differently than the main performer?
“Of course! When I used to teach dance I would basically just tell my kids that when someone gives you a script or when someone teaches you choreography that it’s just an outline and it’s up to you as the artist to fill in and bring the character to life. I have totally different life experiences and a point of view than the person playing the Kralahome now so we would sort of play it a little bit differently. That’s why I love the arts.”

What drew you to the character of the Kralahome?
“A lot of my background is actually on the heavy singer/dancer track but I really genuinely love acting. The Kralahome in the show is actually an actor role; he doesn’t really have a song in the show that he sings as a solo but he is prominent in the show and he definitely helps the story progress. It’s quite a challenge for me to just play an actor!”

What effect on the meaning of the story does the music have?
“There’s a difference between a play and a musical; a play can have music and some dancing. In a musical, however, the music is pivotal because it’s the music that’s actually helping the story progress compared to a play where there can be just random music or random dancing but it has nothing to do with how the character feels or what’s happening in the story. That’s why it’s so important in a musical that there is music being sung and danced to because it’s actually helping the story progress.”

“The King and I” is based on the 1944 novel by Margaret Landon, “Anna and the King of Siam”. Did you read the book before you auditioned for it?
“No, actually I still feel like I’m very new to the whole musical theater industry. I definitely did my research though; I did not get a chance to read the book but I did watch the old movie and the 2015 version, the Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center production one, which is actually what our show is based off of.”

How is this production of “The King and I” bringing something new to the story?
“This is the second national tour; the original was directed by Bartlett Sher and this production is directed by Shelley Butler. It is based off of the Lincoln Center production. I think the audience will absolutely fall in love with our production because it has something for the whole family; there’s singing, dancing, beautiful sets and costumes and great themes that can relate to our culture today like leadership and power, feminism and bridging cultural differences.”

What do you expect the audience’s thoughts to be after they see “The King and I”?
“For me, one of my favorite moments in the show is when Mrs. Anna actually stands up to the king. Without giving too much of the story away, that’s something that’s totally unheard of; you have this woman speaking back to the king and to me that shows her strength and I just love that. I think people will appreciate the strength of women especially in the show.”

What sort of person is going to love this show?
“I love this show because I personally believe in equal rights for people, so people like that would love this show. Anyone who has a good heart I think would absolutely love this show.”

What has your experience being involved with this production been like?
“The story is just so good. It’s so funny because even in rehearsal I could watch the same scene over and over again but I still have this fresh view on it and I laugh at all the jokes every time and still hurt for the characters.”

When is the best night to come see the show?
“We’re coming to Jacksonville November 13 through 18. Tickets are on sale right now and I think the best days to see it would be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday because it may get busy over the weekend.”

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