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People Top 5
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- May 02, 1977
- Vol. 7
- No. 17
That Cute Eliza in 'the King and I' Runs the Whole Show Now
It was not tokenist sentimentality on the part of composer Richard Rodgers and Yul Brynner (still the king at 56). Yuriko was long one of Martha Graham's principal dancers and apostles—with a Guggenheim-funded troupe of her own that toured internationally. Her Japanese immigrant parents ran a midwifery clinic in San Jose, Calif. until they were all uprooted to a detention camp in Arizona during World War II. Yuriko's husband was also interned there, but they didn't meet until New York, where he was a clinical social worker. Now retired, Charles Kikuchi manages his wife and has published a memoir of his years in Arizona (The Kikuchi Diary: Chronicle from an American Concentration Camp).
Daughter Susan "originally didn't want to dance but learned by osmosis." Graham is her godmother, and as an infant in the wings during the first King and I run, she would hold Gertrude Lawrence's chewing gum while the star was onstage. A grad of the U. of Rochester and some "hippie days" bumming around Europe, Susan will return to the Graham troupe after Broadway. She lives (alone) a few blocks from her parents' Manhattan apartment.
The day after the show opens Yuriko enplanes for Poland, where she will coach and choreograph for the Warsaw Ballet Company. The restaging of The King was untaxing, she found, except for the casting. She had to audition 2,500 before settling on the final cast of 48. Forty-four of them are Oriental.
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