BWW Review: THE KING AND I was 'Something Wonderful' at The Aronoff Center For The Arts
For the past two weeks, Cincinnati took the chance of "getting to know" Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I as it docked at the Aronoff Center as part of the Broadway Series from April 10 through April 22! Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Revival, this classic musical, directed by Bartlett Sher was as gorgeous and lavish as ever.
The King and I, set in the 1860s follows a widowed British schoolteacher Mrs. Anna Leonowens, who goes to Siam to teach the King's royal children and the King's many wives. While she is there, she develops an interesting relationship with the King as she helps him change his seemingly "barbaric" image that the West accuses him of, and perhaps change his way of thinking in the process. Anna is extremely strong willed and tries to teach the children, wives and King the importance of women and their equality to men. She also helps the women gain confidence in the process.
Leading the company as Mrs. Anna is the ever so lovely Elena Shaddow. Shaddow was captivating from the minute she entered the stage. She has such a loving, calming presence which is perfect for Anna. The first song that she sings: "Whistle a Happy Tune", a duet with Rhyees Stump who plays her son, Louis Leonowens, is a perfect showcase of their mother-son chemistry. Shaddows chemistry with all the actors was brilliant, but it was especially fun to see her play off the children in "Getting to Know You".
One of the pupils in Anna's class is the heir to the throne, Prince Chulalongkorn, played by Charlie Oh. Oh and Stump sang an insightful duet: "A Puzzlement (Reprise)" where they lament people's, most specifically their parent's weakness in admitting that they are wrong. The two paired excellently together and it made for a charming number.
Jose Llana plays the King of Siam, reprising the role after his stint on Broadway in 2015! llana has golden comedic timing, and his chemistry with Shaddow is exquisite. Judging by the audience's response midway through the number, the Act II showstopper: "Shall We Dance" was the favorite of the night.
Christopher Gatelli's choreography soars in these terrific dancers in the ensemble. The Act II ballet is beautifully staged and performed with such heart and passion.
If the stellar performance descriptions do not entice you enough, seeing Catherine Zuber's costumes alone are worth the price of admission. The cast is dressed to the nines in gorgeous period clothing that radiates royalty.
Michael Yeargan's sets also perfectly set the mood of the show. From the gigantic boat that is worth every "Ooo" and "Ahh" from the audience, to the stunning castle sets, the audience is completely transported to Siam.
Between the classic score, phenomenal talent, lavish costumes, and stunning sets, Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I is most certainly "something wonderful".