IT may have its origins in the golden age of the musical but audiences in Manchester are soon going to discover that The King and I still has great relevance to today.

The Opera House will host the opening performances of the show before it heads off on tour around the country and it’s a show which combines the best of both Broadway and the West End.

Jose Llana, who has played the King in New York will be joined by Annalene Beechey, who played Anna in a sold out run at the London Palladium.

Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and featuring songs including Shall We Dance and Getting to Know You, the King and I is based around the unconventional relationship between an autocratic ruler who is trying to modernise his country and the British governess he brings in to teach his many wives and children.

“I think any story about a world leader at a time of major change has a connection to audiences in any decade,” said Jose. “Though at its heart the story is about family and two people who are brought together as friends over the love of their children. It’s a universal theme and that’s what audiences relate to it so much.”

Mention the King and I to many people and they immediately think of the Hollywood movie starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.

Both Jose and Annalene are keen to ensure that their production has its own unique feeling rather than being a carbon copy of the film.

“When I first did the show I purposely didn’t want to watch the film because I didn’t want to have that in my mind as I was developing the role,” said Jose. “As actors and with our director Bart Sher we wanted to create our own characters and work out who were were. That is the power of the piece.

In the film, Yul Brynner’s king was much older than the governess whereas Jose and Annalene are a similar age giving the show a new dynamic and that isn’t the only major difference.

“The film was made in the Fifties,” said Annalene. “The way they made it then was very relevant for the time but we’re now in 2019 so there has to be something that grabs people’s attention today across all age groups. It just shows how well written the piece is as we can go back to the script and do this.

Jose added: “I had to remind myself that when the King and I was written it was the postwar period and people watching the movie or going to the theatre had never met an Asian person before. The fact it was set in Siam was irrelevant to a lot of them, they didn’t really know where that was – it was just foreign.

“Now it’s a different world. There’s the internet, people travel more and understand that there are very different countries in Asia – it’s not just Asia.

“That’s what’s been so exciting about developing the show. It is so well written it lends itself to allowing the actors to find out who they are as a character. The words will hold up regardless but it gives you the chance to explore your character and to develop the relationship between the King and Anna.”

Annalene agreed, saying: “As an actor, any role has to come from place of truth. You have to be faithful to that and find something that works with each other. If we’re not playing a truth, as an audience you don’t buy it.”

Having both starred in the show before - albeit in different productions - the pair are looking forward to the experience of taking the show on the road for the first time.

“We are telling the same story as we did on Broadway and in London,” said Jose. “But when you tour a show the different audiences very much affect how the story is received.

“I know that when I toured the King and I in the US from city to city we would get different reactions to the same joke or to the same scene and that’s very exciting as a performer.”

Annalene added: “The show does appeal to all age groups. When I did the show in London my children came to see it – they are six and eight – and they loved it.

“Perhaps,” she added with a laugh, “they did have a little bit of inside knowledge about the show. I was singing some of the songs at home. But I think they got an awful lot from it. You have all that beautiful music and there’s this amazing ballet which is quite remarkable for any age group to see.”

A key feature of the show are the king’s many children and Jose believes they play a key role on different levels.

“When you are in a show with kids for me, it elevates you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. These youngsters are going to look up to us as actors and as adults so how we behave both on stage and off stage is very important,” he said.

n The King and I, Manchester Opera House, until Saturday, May 11. Details from 0844 871 3018 or