Helen George has said that musical The King And I is “a bit like Call The Midwife” because it is “very political”.
George, 39, known for playing Trixie Franklin in the hit BBC TV series about a group of midwives, will reprise the role of Anna in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, set to make its West End return next year.
Speaking about how The King And I maintains its relevancy today, the actress said: “The education of women and children, and women and daughters, is a really strong current theme, which it tackles straight-on.
“I think The King is very progressive in that way. I think what’s interesting is that (there is) a mirror being shown to a western society.
“We have (the song) Western People Funny, which is these wives really hitting us (western people) hard with with what we’ve done in our past, and I think it’s a necessary political stance.
“But what’s so brilliant is it’s summed up in a family show.
“It’s a bit like Call The Midwife in that sense: it’s very political, yet it’s a wonderful show to watch at Christmas.
“And I think the adults will take in what they need to and the children will enjoy the songs and the dresses. It’s kind of the perfect combination.”
The musical is set in 1860s Bangkok and the actress discussed what it has been like to sing in corsets and “heavy” dresses.
“The corset makes me work hard,” she said.
“It’s actually really good for singing, it kind of really supports you in a way.
“The dresses are enormous and heavy. They’re wide.
“There’s many theatres around the country that the set fits in but the dress does not – really doesn’t.
“And I’ll sort of come off stage, and there will be coat hangers and cobwebs and small children coming out of the dress, (I’m) just dragging everything along with me.
“They’re pretty enormous, but they are amazing to wear.”
She added: “I love the Indian linen that we use and the kind of ethnic twists that she (Anna) has to her gowns as well. They’ve really, really thought about it.”
George also said that she was told she had to train like an “Olympian athlete” when she took on the role.
“You really do need to train like an athlete, and you have to take care of yourself and you have to warm up. It’s a big show,” she said.
The King And I tells the story of the relationship between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.
Following upcoming shows in Eastbourne and Salford, the musical will make its return to the West End early next year when it opens at the Dominion Theatre on January 20.
George, who performed earlier in the year to sold out theatres across the UK, will perform alongside her co-star Darren Lee, who plays The King.