by Lorie Lewis Ham
The King and I comes through Fresno next week for two performances at the Saroyan Theater in Fresno. We were able to chat recently with one of its stars, Angela Baumgardner, who plays Anna Leonowens.
KRL: When did you first become interested in acting?
Angela: Probably since, I could talk! I was always performing for my family and friends and did every play possible in school. I had some great teachers and am so grateful for each of them.
KRL: What was the first role that you ever played?
Angela: I grew up in Oklahoma and secured the role of Narrator #5 in Oklahoma in the 4th Grade. I remember practicing in front of the television for hours memorizing all the songs and dance steps. My first full-length musical was You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 8th grade. I played Linus.
KRL: Have you done any other professional theatre?
Angela: Yes, my first professional job out of high school was with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. After that, I focused on other careers then started back in regional theater in California about 8 years ago. Some of my favorite roles in the LA area were Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins and Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. I reprised my role of Mrs. Potts in Anchorage, AK, one year after doing it in LA.
KRL: What has it been like to be in your first touring show?
Angela: It’s a dream come true! I love getting to know this cast and crew better. We’ve become a little family. I also love meeting new people along the way and exploring each city we visit. It’s been fun getting to see family and friends at different stops along the way. So far, I’ve known someone in every city we’ve visited!
KRL: What do you like best about playing this role?
Angela: My favorite thing is singing these beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. They are so rich, iconic, and smart. Performing these sweeping melodies with our full orchestra is just thrilling.
KRL: What has been the biggest challenge in playing this role?
Angela: Probably the physical and vocal demands of the role. I’m on stage nearly the entire show, and I give my all every night.
KRL: Were you a fan of The King and I before you auditioned?
Angela: Absolutely! I grew up on classic musicals, and Rodgers and Hammerstein were top of my list. The King and I has always been a favorite. I noticed that I got something new out of it whenever I was at a new stage in my life. The show is charming and heart-warming but also deep, complex and thought provoking.
KRL: What have you done to prepare for this role?
Angela: I like to find what from my own life resonates with the character I’m playing and how I can relate to her. I find Anna so multi-faceted. She’s incredibly strong in her ideas, principles, and beliefs, yet she has such a weak spot for the children. There was a time in my life when I realized everything was about giving to the next generation, and I believe Anna recognizes her privilege and responsibility in influencing the next generation, specifically the next King of Siam. It has been a joy to get to know this character and embody her on stage every night.
KRL: What is a typical day like for you while in this touring show?
Angela: Every day is a bit different, but I typically start with exercise, exploring the city, doing some work on other projects, having some quiet time, then prepping for the show. Show prep includes a warm-up, sometimes a sound check, having a cup of tea, and getting into makeup, wig, and costume. I’ve found that having some consistent things like my morning workout or afternoon cup of tea brings some normalcy to road life. Also, talking with friends and family back home keeps me connected and grounded. I am so grateful for this experience and love sharing this timeless story with audiences across the country!
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find a review of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which is currently on stage at Roger Rocka’s in Fresno, up in KRL News & Reviews!
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 11 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.