Playhouse Square’s production of ‘The King and I’ will leave you humming
What would motivate people to come out in early February to see a Key Bank Broadway Series musical of which they have seen the movie version more than a few times (like gazillion)? If it is the currently touring Lincoln Center Production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I it is because this could well be the show of the season.
This feast for the senses contains phenomenal acting, singing and dancing combined with exquisite costuming along with a simple yet exquisite stage set. Added to this are the all too familiar know-by-heart songs such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,”Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You” and of course “Shall We Dance” just to name a few.
The story is based on the real life memoirs of Anna Leonowens and her time (1862-1868) as a teacher in King Mongkut’s court in Siam (later Thailand)that were turned into a novel by Margaret Landon while serving with her husband as missionaries in Thailand in 1927. This novel was then discovered by Fanny Holtzmann who in 1950 convinced Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to turn it into the magical Broadway musical then movie.
East collides with West as newly widowed Anna and her son Louis land in 1860’s Bangkok having been hired by the king of Siam to teach his sixty plus children and multiple wives at the royal palace. Things get off on the wrong foot when the king insists that Anna reside in the palace rather than in an attached house as promised. It is only after meeting the adorable collection of children and wives that she decides to stay.
While introducing what to her students are novel and at first unfathomable ideas such as frozen lakes and snow and the size of the world in relation to Siam she also begins to pick up on the traditions of her host country…some good, some horrifying.
At the core of the dispute are the newly delivered concubine Tuptim and her true love Lun Tha (who delivered her to the royal court). Anna, having lost her one true love, does everything in her power to help the young couple.
In order to prove he is not a barbarian as rumored by his enemies, the king invites a British delegation to a grand dinner, Siam infused but Western inspired musical and a grand ballroom dance. The evening nearly comes off without a hitch until Tuptim uses the play “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to protest her treatment and loss of her one true love, Lun Tha after which the two attempt to escape.
Tuptim is captured and brought back to the palace for punishment and her true love Lun Tha dies during the escape attempt. When the king attempts to punish Tuptim, Anna steps in to halt it setting up the dramatic conclusion of this classic story.
The performances of all on stage from the smallest royal child to the adults were extraordinary. Most notable, especially in their singing roles were Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna, Jose Llana as the King of Siam, Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, Manna Nichols as Tuptim, Kavin Panmeechao as Lun Tha, Anthony Chan as Prince Chulalongkorn and Graham Montgomery as Louis.
The comedy is spot on(especially the use of facial expressions), the dancing (traditional and classical) s mesmerizing and the drama goes straight to the heart (try not to cry at the end).
This is the perfect show to bring your family to see. While there are some moments that may be intense for the really young, pre-teens and older will appreciate the pageantry of this show.
This is THE ONE! The single show that you need to put on your must see list. With its sparkling grandeur, fabulous costuming, exquisite lighting, delightful dance sequences and crystal singing it is the must see show of this season’s Key Bank Broadway Series.
The King and I will be appearing in the Connor Palace through February 26, 2017. Tickets may be purchased by phone by calling (216) 241-6000, online at www.playhousesquare.com or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Box Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.