BWW Reviews: Don't miss the boat on THE KING AND I
Like the steamboat that chugs into the harbor in its opening scene, THE KING AND I keeps arriving right on time, taking a whole new passenger's list of people to an exotic land. Some of the passengers arrive at the boat's port of call, the Ohio Theatre (located on 39 East State Street in downtown Columbus) for the first time; others have made the journey time and time again.
The current production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is just as breath-taking for first time viewers as it is for the aging, blue haired set taking in their multiple viewing of it. The production doesn't rely on adding flashy new gimmicks, outrageous novel staging or innovative tunes to a classic sound track. Granted, the costuming and the stage design are spectacular, but it is the chemistry between Chagrin Falls, Ohio native Elena Shaddow (as British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens) and Jose Llana (as the King of Siam) that makes this show unforgettable.
Llana portrays King Mongkut as an egocentric monarch, who is equal parts ruthless and compassionate. Shaddow plays Leonowens as a woman with a sense of cunning and charm who is able to not only stand up to the king but change him.
After one stand off between the two, Mongkut demands of Anna that she must always bow to the will of the king. "Head must not be higher than mine! A promise!"
After Anna reluctantly agrees, Llana keeps on lowering his head until it is touching the stage with Shaddow gamely following suit.
THE KING AND I allows several other actors to step into the spotlight. Joan Almedilla is delightful as Lady Thiang, Mongkut's head wife and Brian Rivera is charming as Kralahome, Mongkut's long suffering prime minister and right-hand man. Q Lim and Kavin Panmeechao bring passion to the roles as the doomed lovers, Tuptim and Lun Tha respectively. Charlie Oh (Prince Chulalongkorn) and Rhyees Stump (Louis Leonowens) strike up an unlikely friendship as the sons of the monarch and the teacher.
The only flaw to the show, outside of the bizarre ballet of The Small House of Uncle Thomas, is that its stay in Columbus is far too short. Make sure you catch one of the six remaining shows because you never know when the steamboat will be making its next port of call in Columbus.
THE KING AND I will be performed 7:30 p.m. April 24-26 and 8 p.m. April 27-28 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street). The show will also feature a 2 p.m. matinee on April 28, a 1 p.m. matinee on April 29, and its Columbus finale 6:30 p.m. on April 29. Call (614) 719-6900 for ticket information.