When The King and I, the perennial Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical makes its way back to The Fox Theatre stage tonight, September 5 through September 11, a familiar face will once be there once again to charm Atlanta audiences. Victoria Mallory who's first professional production at age 11 was in The King and I with the very same company, comes full circle and makes a triumphant return to the Atlanta stage in the role of Anna, the schoolteacher who journeys to Siam and falls for the gregarious king. I had the pleasure of speaking with Victoria about the timelessness of this musical, the role of Anna and what its like to return to Atlanta, Theater of the Stars and The King and I after a long and successful career.
BWW: Hi, Victoria! How are you?
Victoria Mallory: I am well!
Great, thanks! We're looking forward to The King and I coming to Atlanta!
Thank you! I am so excited!
Can we start by hearing a little bit about how you got started in the theatre?
My father was a bandmaster in the army and as a child we lived in Germany for a number of years. I started playing piano when I was five and started dancing very young - I thought I wanted to be a ballerina. When we left Germany, we moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia and then Columbus, GA. I still consider it home. I did twenty musicals in high school and was part of a local ballet company there, and I competed nationally in piano competitions. I had an entire career before I left high school! I had some remarkable mentors there, at my high school, at Ft. Benning, and in the Columbus theatre and college theatre.
And I understand Theater of the Stars and The King and I have a very special place for you. You did your first professional production for them when you were 11?
Yes, my mother drove me up to Atlanta when she found out they were doing The King and I at Theater Under the Stars at Chastain Park. I auditioned and got in - my first professional show. I will never forget it. Several years later, after I did all my New York theater, I came back to work for Chris [Manos] and performed a number of leading ladies for him. So to come back and do this show, of all shows, is quite special.
I'm curious, coming full circle, starting here in The King and I and now coming back, as Anna, years later, what is that like for you?
This was the one role that escaped me. I did My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Guys and Dolls, Sound of Music, and many times during those years I was asked to do The King and I but had a conflict, so I never got to do this role. It certainly does feel like coming full circle. The other interesting part of the story, our daughter, Ramona Mallory did her first professional show for Chris back when I did the tour of The Music Man. So, my daughter got her start here too! Just yesterday I talked to the wig master who remembered the size of my head! So, it will be so incredibly moving to go back to The Fox.
Speaking of The King and I, what do you think it is about the show that keeps it going for so long?
I think its because its about the choices you make in your life, those moments where you do something you have never done before, like a child, doing something frightening and new. And as for the story, Anna is doing just that, stepping into the world of the unknown. I think it is also special because it's based on a real person so it has this richness and depth and is so romantic and beautiful. It moves you in such a real way because of this woman and this king and how they come together, and how he changes and how she grows. It touches on everything, what real love is, what real courage is, devotion, commitment and what prejudice does to people.
So, what made you want to be a part of this particular production?
It's a dream role. This is one of those roles that is just so beautifully written. This story is inspiring and beautiful. There are a lot of shows I love, but this one is special - the script, these characters and the score, it is just magnificent.
And what can audiences expect from this specific production?
I think people who are familiar with the show are drawn to it. When the music begins, they are already there. I think people come because they love it and want to feel that. They know they are going to be moved, it's inevitable. For those who have not seen it, I think it will be a wonderful surprise.