This week, I was passing through Wichita, KS, and caught up with Thom Sesma, who is currently starring as The King in the Music Theatre of Wichita’s new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic The King and I, which has performances through July 14th at the Century II Performing Arts Center, 225 W. Douglas Ave in Wichita, Kansas.
Sesma revisits the role for the third time and is thrilled to return to MTWichita, where he appeared in Paint Your Wagon (1992) and Gigi (1994). The King and I reunites him with director Mark Madama (Paint Your Wagon and Gigi) and Kim Huber (his leading lady in Paint Your Wagon), as well as with producing artistic director Wayne Bryan, who directed him at University High School in San Diego in 1973.
Broadway veterans Sesma (Miss Saigon, Titanic, The Times They Are A’Changin’) and Huber (Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard) lead the cast as The King and English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, with Alan Ariano (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) as The Kralahome, Kay Trinidad and Karl Josef Co (Allegiance) as Tuptim and Lun Tha, Tami Swartz (Madama Butterfly, Master Class) as Lady Thiang, Timothy W. Robu as Captain Orton, and Mark Clark as Sir Edward Ramsey.
Young Timothy T.V. Cao as Prince Chulalongkorn leads a 40-member troupe of royal princes and princesses, with Edward Sturm as Louis Leonowens. Los Angeles based dancers Lisa Gillespie and Jasmine Ejan portray Eliza and Angel/George in “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” Ballet.
The creative team includes choreography by Peggy Hickey (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), set design by XuZheng He, lighting design by David Neville, sound design by Andy Rouse, hair and wig design by Alena Sellers, and Thomas W. Douglas as musical director.
The remaining performance schedule is Thursday – Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2pm. Evening tickets are Evening: $24-$60; matinee tickets are $22-$52. The King and I has performances through July 14, 2013 at Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center, 225 W. Douglas Ave., Wichita, KS 67202. For more information, call 316-265-3107 and to purchase tickets, check out http://www.mtwichita.org/shows-and-tickets/2013-summer-season/.
THOM SESMA (The King) theatre credits include leading roles on Broadway and in national tours: The Times They Are A-Changin’, The Lion King, Search & Destroy, Titanic, Miss Saigon, Chu Chem and others. Off-Broadway credits include NSYF/Public Theatre (Cymbeline, Othello), the Roundabout, Second Stage, The Drama Department, The Mint, NAATCO, Epic Theatre and others. Numerous regional credits including time well spent in plays, musicals and classical theatre at The Old Globe, Yale Rep, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse, The McCarter, Two Rivers Theatre Co., Arena Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, many more. Some TV and Film credits: The Good Wife, Single Ladies, Third Watch, Law & Order, Canterbury’s Law, Over/ Under, Lay The Favorite, Building Girl, and getting shot point-blank in the head in Person of Interest. Immediately after The King and I closes, Thom will be reunited with the role of The Engineer for the first time since 1997 when he begins rehearsals for a new production of Miss Saigon, directed by Eric Schaeffer, at the famed Signature Theatre in Washington DC, Directing credits include Jennifer Camp’s Natural History (Walnut Street Theatre), Life (x) 3 (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), and Outcry (NAATCO), along with Hair, Lend Me a Tenor, The Drawer Boy, Once in a Lifetime, Waiting for Lefty, Phantom!, Me and My Girl, and others in various regional, university and stock theatres across the country. Best credit yet: Married Penelope Daulton on April 20. Proud member AEA, SAG-AFTRA and SDC. Colossians 3:12-17
KIM HUBER (Anna) couldn’t be happier to return to MTWichita for her 14th show, and to be reunited with Thom Sesma, her very first leading man here in Paint Your Wagon. She has since been blessed to return to MTWichita to star in Good News!, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (opposite her husband, Roger Befeler), Phantom, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, White Christmas, My Fair Lady and Finian’s Rainbow. Kim starred on Broadway as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (and originated the National Tour), and was an original cast member of Sunset Boulevard (with Glenn Close) and Marie Christine. Her portrayal of Nellie Collins in the Floyd Collins National Tour earned her both Barrymore and Jeff Award nominations. Now a resident of L.A., she has starred in the L.A. premieres of The Last Five Years (Cathy), The Spitfire Grill (Shelby), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Missy, L.A. Drama Critics Award) and Having It All (Lizzie, Ovation Award Nom).
Favorite Credits include: The Sound of Music (Maria, 5th Ave Theatre), Chess (Florence, Alliance Theatre), She Loves Me (Amalia, Rubicon Theatre), Show Boat (Magnolia, Ft Worth Symphony and Casa Manana), and she can be heard as the singing voice of “Sleeping Beauty” on Disney Records. Proud Mom to Paige and Adam, she is grateful for all of her beloved teachers; Mom, Dad, Wayne, Mark and Jan.
TAMI SWARTZ (Lady Thiang) Hailed by The Washington Post as “A lithe soprano…especially clean and well modulated,” Tami Swartz is a singing actor with a varied career in opera, theater, new music and jazz. Opera roles include Madama Butterfly, Gilda, Musetta, Heloise (in Offenbach’s Bluebeard) and Lúthien (in Leithian based on “Beren & Lúthien” from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion by Adam Klein) at Metro Lyric, Harrisburg, Connecticut, Connecticut Grand, Fort Lauderdale, Long Beach opera companies, and Liederkranz Opera Theatre. Theater credits, Off-Broadway and Regional, include: Polly Peachum and Polly in Beggar’s Holiday (Duke Ellington) and The Threepenny Opera, Lady Thiang in The King and I, Cunegonde in Candide and Sharon in Master Class with York Theatre Company, Harrisburg Opera, East Carolina Summer Theatre, Caldwell Theatre Company. New music and jazz performances include concerts with world-class jazz musicians Ray Anderson, Al Grey, Christian McBride, Chris Potter, Valery Ponomarev, Ted Rosenthal & Randy Sandke at Bern Music Festival, Carnegie Hall, and in jazz venues across the U.S. Visit her website at: http://www.tamiswartz.com; follow her on Twitter: @t_swartz. Many thanks to Wayne Bryan for giving her the opportunity to return to MTWichita and reprise the role of Lady Thiang!
ALAN ARIANO (The Kralahome) Music Theatre of Wichita debut! Broadway: M. Butterfly, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Shogun: The Musical, Flower Drum Song (National Tour), and Miss Saigon (from Original Company to Closing Company – 10 years to the day). Off Broadway: Shanghai Moon (opposite Charles Bush) and Pan Asian Rep’s Imelda. World premieres include Geffen Playhouse’s Extraordinary Chambers, Portland Center Stage’s Snow Falling on Cedars, Prospect Theater’s Honor, and Diverse City Theatre’s The Encounter. Regional Theatres include the Kennedy Center, The MUNY, Segerstrom Center, Walnut Street Theatre, Pioneer Theater, The 5th Avenue, TUTS Houston, San Diego CLO and Weston Playhouse. Favorite stage roles include The King (The King and I), Bishop and Grantaire (Les Misérables), Ito (Mame), and Gonzalo (The Tempest). TV credits include “Harry’s Law,” “Leverage,” “Law & Order,” “As the World Turns,” “One Life to Live,” “Parco, P.I.,” “Saturday Night Live,” and guest starring with Isabella Rossellini on HBO’s “Treme” as Annie’s parents. After this production, Mr. Ariano proudly continues to Sacramento Music Circus where he will reprise the role of The Kralahome for the 6th time in his career.
KAY TRINIDAD (Tuptim) is delighted to make her Music Theatre of Wichita debut! Broadway: The Little Mermaid (Aquata/ Original Broadway cast). Off-Broadway: Bare: A Pop Opera (Diane/ Original NY Cast), The Roar of the Greasepaint, Ninja the Musical (Martha/ Kit). Regional Theater/National Tours: Allegiance (Wendy Mugiishi), Seussical the Musical, Making Tracks, Bye Bye Birdie. Kay performed as Marcy Park on the Stage Stars recording of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She studied at The Lee Strasberg Institute at NYU’s Tisch. Unending thanks to her family, friends, and teachers, her agents at Harden-Curtis, and also to Wayne Bryan for giving her the opportunity to play this role! An especially big hug and all my love goes to Mom, Dad, Até Chris and Frank, Apey, Big Al and Joan, and my rock and love, Mr. Michael Karns. Thank you to the One above for all the beautiful blessings in my life. Proud member of AEA. www.kaytrinidad.com
KARL JOSEF CO (Lun Tha) is beyond thrilled to make his MTWichita debut in The King and I!. He most recently appeared as Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! Off-Broadway at The Signature Theatre directed by Lee Roy Reams and produced by Baayork Lee. He also understudied and performed the leading role of Sammy Kimura in the new Broadway-bound musical Allegiance in its World Premiere at The Old Globe opposite Lea Salonga and George Takei. Other credits include: Miss Saigon (Fulton Theatre), Suites by Sondheim (Lincoln Center), Costs of Living (Stephen Schwartz/ ASCAP), and The King and I (North Shore). TV: “Bad Advice From My Brother” (Comedy Central), “Hung” (HBO). Praise be to God! Thanks to Mom, Dad, and Mico for their unending love and support! Thanks to Joel, Michael, and Christopher at CGF! Thanks to Wayne and the entire MTWichita family! Proud graduate of the University of Michigan – GO BLUE! Twitter: @KarlJosefCo
EDWARD STURM (Louis) is thrilled to be back at MTWichita for his third summer. Some of his favorite theatre credits include Billy, the duckling, in last year’s production of HONK! at MTWichita, Jojo in MTYP’s Seussical, and Little Jake in The Crown Uptown’s Annie Get Your Gun. He is also very excited to play Michael Banks in Mary Poppins later this summer. Edward will be in the 6th grade at The Independent School this fall, swims year round at the Wichita Swim Club and plays cello and trombone. A big thanks to Wayne, Amy, Mom, Dad & Claire, God, and all of the great people at MTW!
TIMOTHY T.V. CAO (Prince Chulalongkorn) is so excited to be performing the role of Prince Chulalongkorn in MTWichita’s production of The King and I. A few of his favorite roles are Winnie the Pooh (KIDS), and Knight #2 (Once Upon a Mattress) with MTYP, and he enjoyed performing at MTW’s Curtain Up! gala last May. Timothy has been active in dance and Gymnastics for the last 8 years. He is a multiple National Scholarship Winner. Timothy performs throughout Wichita with the Broadway Kids of the Future. Timothy’s dream is to make it to New York. He wants to thank MTWichita for this wonderful opportunity. along with his Mom and Dad for being his Biggest Fans!
LISA GILLESPIE (Eliza / Fan Dancer) is very excited to participate in her first production with MTWichita. Most recently she worked as principal dancer with Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet and Santa Fe Opera in Maometto II and King Roger. Lisa has also performed principal roles with Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera among others. Operas include The Merry Widow, Aida, Queen of Spades, La Traviata, Turondot, Vanessa, Pearl Fishers, Die Fledermaus and Carmen. Musical theater roles include Louise in Carousel and Dream Laurey in Oklahoma! She received her dance training on scholarship at the North Carolina School of the Arts and San Francisco Ballet. With Ballet Arizona she danced principal and soloist roles and has danced original works with Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet for 12 years in Los Angeles, London and New York.
JASMINE EJAN (Angel / George) is thrilled to make her debut at Musical Theatre of Wichita! Jasmine opened the 2011 national tour of Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan as Tiger Lily. See her fight skills as Ninja in www.fantasywomenbattles.com (and vote for her!). She also dances with Bollywood Step Dance Troupe (My Fair Wedding, Cupcake Wars, Legion of Extraordinary Dancers). Proud credits: Celine Dion’s A New Day and singing with her on “The Tonight Show.” Film/TV: “Oprah,” “World Music Awards,” performing with Elton John. B.A. in dance from UC Irvine, M.Ed from UNLV. Thanks to Peggy, Mark, & Thomas. Love to my family & friends! www.JasmineEjan.com
MARK CLARK (Sir Edward) is happy to be back at MTW after performing the role of the Constable in last year’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Mark is presently the Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He earned degrees in Music from Friends University and Wichita State University. Mark has taught and directed music for over 30 years to students in public schools, arts academies and colleges.Besides his teaching and directing credits, Mark has been a professional actor in dinner and regional theatre since 1975. Some of his favorite roles include: Johnny Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Curly in Oklahoma!; Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls; TR in Tintypes; and Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. He has also enjoyed performing in radio and TV commercials. Mark has several choral works published with Shawnee Press and Lorenz Corporation. He and his wife Stacy have three grown children and three grandchildren. Mark is grateful to Wayne Bryan for this opportunity to leave the small town for a while to come “play” in the big city.
TIMOTHY W. ROBU (Capt. Orton) is delighted to be a part of this year’s MTWichita season, as well as many previous ones. Audiences may remember Tim in past roles such as Thenardier in Les Misérables, Bedevere in Spamalot, John Hancock in 1776, Billis in South Pacific, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, Amos Hart in Chicago, Oscar Shapiro in Curtains, Mr. Feldzeig in The Drowsy Chaperone, Herbie in Gypsy, and Lazar Wolf in Fiddler. Tim also performs at several other venues in the Wichita area, including Mosley Street Melodrama and the Crown Uptown Theatre. Tim served as Technical Director for the Crown Theatre and Artistic Director of the children’s program for over twenty years. He now works as an Exhibit Technician for Exploration Place. When not working at Wichita‘s fine theatres, Tim has plenty to keep him busy as father to his two daughters, Katie and Francie. An added bonus to this year’s season is the chance to perform with his talented wife Karen in three of the season’s shows. Thanks to Wayne and all the folks in Wichita who produce theatre, perform theatre, and enjoy theatre. They make the Wichita area a great place to work, live, and bring up kids in.
HARRY ROBERT PERRIN (Phra Alack) is beyond excited to return to MTWichita, where he appeared as The Club Owner in Miss Saigon in 2009, with the late Kevin Gray. Harry is a proud Musical Theatre Performance graduate of The University of Oklahoma. In New York, Harry has appeared in several readings/ workshops of new musicals and plays, as well as several concerts, most notably, The 27th Annual Drama League Benefit (w/ Patti LuPone) and Kerrigan+ Lowdermilk’s “You Made This Tour” tri-state concert tour, directed by Daniel Goldstein. He appears as a vocalist on K+L’s new album, “K+L: Live.” Harry has also worked in other performing arts mediums, assisting in the casting of the national tour of South Pacific, directed by Sarna Lapine, and sound engineering for the likes of Gavin DeGraw, Ernie Halter, Polica, and others. Favorite regional/stock credits include: the title role in Pippin, Chip (…Spelling Bee), Charlie & Linus (YAGMCB), Nathan Detroit (Guys and Dolls), Leonato (Much Ado About Nothing), and as an actor with the Houston Grand Opera. Harry currently serves as a Director/Instructor and Technical Director for the Houston Family Arts Center. He is beyond excited to return to NYC, in the Fall of ’14 with his brother, Jackson, who he is blessed to share the stage with in this production. Thanks to Wayne, Nancy, and MTWichita for this wonderful opportunity.
Special thanks to Music Theatre of Wichita’s producing artistic director Wayne Bryan, director Mark Madama, musical director Thomas W. Douglas, and the entire company of The King and I for allowing me to document their rehearsal for my Lia Chang Asian Pacific American Theater Photography and Other Works Portfolio in The Library of Congress.
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. This summer she will appear as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Penwah, July 30-August 1, 2013.
Other articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss Starring André De Shields Featured in Encore Performances at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, July 30-August 1, 2013
Photos: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Leslie Uggams, Anthony Chisholm, S. Epatha Merkerson, Taraji P. Henson, Jesse L. Martin, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Kenny Leon and More Set for August Wilson American Century Cycle Recording Series at The Greene Space in NY, Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 2013
Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks, Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams
Signature Theatre’s 2013-14 Season Features New Works by Albee, Hwang, Enos, Taylor, Wilson, Clarke and Jacobs-Jenkins
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Chuck Cooper, Austin Pendleton, Nicholas L. Ashe, Kyle Beltran, Grantham Coleman, Jeremy Pope, and Wallace Smith Set for MTC’s World Premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy, June 18- July 21, 2013
Photos: David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Opening Night
Production Photos: Mary Zimmerman-helmed Disney’s The Jungle Book featuring Two-Time Tony Nominee André De Shields, Nehal Joshi, Akash Chopra, Govind Kumar and More at The Goodman, Extends Through August 11, 2013
Here Lies Love, Starring Jose Llana and Ruthie Ann Miles, Extends at The Public through July 28, 2013
C.J. Wilson navigates armor and swordplay in Signature Theatre Company’s World Premiere of Kenneth Lonergan’s Medieval Play
Up Close and Personal with Darren Pettie, Star of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Other articles on Thom Sesma:
Christine Toy Johnson, Thom Sesma, Ali Ewolt, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Telly Leung and More Set for The Asian American Composers and Lyricists Project at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre on May 19, 2013
Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin de Jesus and John Tartaglia set for MUNY’s Aladdin, July 5-13
Thom Sesma is the keynote speaker for the Library of Congress celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) at the Mary Pickford Theater on May 17
Photos & Video Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas-In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Spotlight on Shanghai Moon’s Thom Sesma
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (3pm) with Andre Bishop, Mary Beth Hurt, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Philip Kan Gotanda, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Richard Thomas, Jay O. Sanders, and more
Photos: Highlights of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan (8pm) with Oskar Eustis, Patti LuPone, Lisa Emery, Ann Harada, Paolo Montalban, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Henry Stram, Richard Thomas, John Weidman and more
Extended through 8/23- “In Rehearsal” Lia Chang Theater Portfolio at Library of Congress Featuring Robert Lee and Leon Ko’s Heading East Starring BD Wong, Thom Sesma as Scar in The Lion King Las Vegas
Photos: On the town with Rick Shiomi, Co-Editor of “Asian American Plays for a New Generation”, in D.C. & NY
Photos: Rick Shiomi Checks out Performing Arts Playwrights Series in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection of Library of Congress
Lia Chang Theater Portfolio at Library of Congress Features Photos of Thom Sesma’s Makeup Transformation as Scar in Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas, Robert Lee and Leon Ko’s Heading East Starring BD Wong, David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish, and Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri’s Bakwas Bumbug! on View Through August 2
“In Rehearsal”: Lia Chang Theater Portfolio Features Rehearsal Photos of David Henry Hwang’s Broadway Bound Chinglish and Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri’s “Bakwas Bumbug! on View in the Asian Division Reading Room at Library of Congress through 8/2
My portrait of “New York actor Thom Sesma’s Makeup Transformation into Scar in The Lion King” on view in HHC’s New York City: IN FOCUS, Vol. 2- 7/14
HHC Art Collection’s “New York City: In FOCUS, Vol.2” Photo Exhibit on view 6/23-/7/14,Opening Reception 6/23
Backstage at The Lion King Las Vegas with Thom Sesma
Thom Sesma as Scar in The Lion King at Mandalay bay
Thom Sesma, Peter Kim and Andrew Cristi star in Durango
Thom Sesma Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi
Thom Sesma in The Epic Theatre Ensemble’s A HARD HEART
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.