BWW Review: The KING AND I is too large for the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
Roger and Hammerstein's The King and I opens on Saturday June 7 at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre in Kansas City. Karen Paisley directs the musical, and stars as Anna Leonowens. Tim Braselton provides musical direction and the choreography's designed by Matthew King. The King and I is based on the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, which is derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who was governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the 1860s.
The stage of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is inadequate to host such an enormous musical production. The small stage does not provide sufficient floor space for the dance numbers to be effective. The lavish costumes designed by Robert Fletcher and provided by Kansas City Costume are not enough to hide the lack of quality that we have seen in previous productions at the theater. There is little charisma between characters to drawn the audience into the show.
The production comes off more like a vanity piece for Paisley than the musical extravaganza it is intended to be. She not only directed and stars in the musical, she also designed the modest set for the production. At times, her acting is passable and at other times, body movement and facial expressions seem forced instead of natural. Her vocals could be pleasant but unfortunately mixed with moments of flatness.
Mykel Hill stars as the King of Siam, though he has a nice voice there is no chemistry between him and Anna Leonowens. His acting was good, yet there was no real connection between him and the other characters on stage. In Act II as the king lies dying, he comes off more like a man not wanting to get out of bed than one facing death in its face. Hill has appeared with Musical Theater Heritage, the Unicorn Theatre, and the Bathhouse in Seattle.
Megan Herrera plays Tuptim and Matthew King portrays Lun Tha, the man who has brought her to Siam as a gift to the King. Herrera and King are two of the most talented performers in Kansas City and provided the few bright spots of an otherwise forgettable production. Herrera and King have magnificent voices and their renditions of "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have Dreamed" stole the show.
Two other members of the cast gave exceptional performances, Tony Beasley as Kralohome and Kami Rodgers as Lady Thaing. Beasley's acting was superb, as was that of Rodgers. Rodgers also has a wonderful voice and they supplied some of the little chemistry between characters on the stage.
The King and I continues at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre through June 22. Purchase tickets by visiting the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre website.