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updated: 5/23/2011 4:50 PM

All ages sought for "The King and I" auditions

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  • Julianne Vickers, now the musical director for the Fox Valley Park District's Summer Stage, played Anna in "The King and I" when it was staged in 1991.

    Julianne Vickers, now the musical director for the Fox Valley Park District's Summer Stage, played Anna in "The King and I" when it was staged in 1991.
    Courtesy Fox Valley Park District


Directing a Broadway-style stage production is a process of "putting the pieces of a puzzle together."

That's how Arlene Hawks describes it, and she absolutely loves fitting each piece with the next. The result is a mosaic masterpiece under bright lights, complete with a standing ovation amid the packed house.

This summer, she'll be seeking the same, sensational success that has been her career trademark as a show director. A 30-year veteran, Hawks will lead production of the Fox Valley Park District's Summer Stage program that will perform "The King and I" this July at the Paramount Arts Centre.

Hawks is seeking an eclectic mix of talent for this dramatic, richly textured production of a tale that is ultimately uplifting and fascinating throughout.

Unlike recent years, adults will play a prominent role as they combine with children (age 7 and older) and teens to form a diverse cast of characters -- more than 150 in all.

Auditions are set for 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 2, at the Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Ave., Aurora.

Ages 7-12 should audition between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.; teens and adults, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Appointments are not needed; call (630) 859-8606 for details.

Hawks is giddy with anticipation to screen and then work with such a wide range of performers and a large singing/dancing ensemble.

"Leading roles will need to be played by seasoned performers and experienced vocalists," said Hawks. "At the same time, we have plenty of room in the cast for first-time performers. This is a great opportunity for veteran performers to get back onstage and a wonderful way for children to learn from watching, listening and being a part of this award-winning show."

It's an anniversary of sorts for Hawks, who directed the Summer Stage production of "The King and I" in 1991. Many of the lead performers from that show went on to professional careers in theater or song, including Hawks' son, Victor Hawks (Lun Tha in the show), who went on to a Broadway career and works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

"I'm excited about putting this together again and perhaps having a reunion of a few former cast members on the set during some of our rehearsals," said Hawks.

In a classic East vs. West scenario, "The King and I" is set in 1862, when an English widow (Anna Leonowens) and her young son arrive at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the King to serve as a tutor to his many children and wives.

The King is considered a barbarian by those in the West and seeks Anna's assistance in changing his image, if not his ways.

While both keep their respective traditions intact, they grow to understand and eventually respect one another. They are of matching intelligence and strength, but with clashing personalities, prejudices and politics.

But with a combination of heart, drama and comedy, this musical brings it all together -- a noble man struggling to change and a teacher who inspires him -- in a truly unique love story.

The experience certainly had a positive effect on those who performed it here 20 years ago. Other leading characters included Julianne Vickers (Anna), Chris Weaver (Prince) and Ken Ruffalo (Sir Edward). Vickers is now musical director for Summer Stage; Weaver is an Aurora police officer; and Ruffalo is the drama director at West Aurora High School.

The show hits the Paramount at 7 p.m. Friday, July 22; at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 24, in what Hawks is calling "the local talent preview of the Paramount's professional Broadway season."

"The Paramount is a fabulous place to perform; even Frank Sinatra got goose bumps."

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Visit for information on auditions for