BWW Review: THE KING AND I is Flawless...If It's Your Cup Of Tea
It takes a bit of push to get me to attend more classical works of musical theatre. I didn't grow up with the movies, so the nostalgia is a little lost on me.
That being said, I was excited to see the tour of the Lincoln Center's recent production of The King and I, which nabbed a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The story of a widowed schoolteacher who brings European ideals to the many children of the King of Siam has been celebrated for decades for its captivating story and gorgeous music. Directed by Bartlett Sher, who helmed their acclaimed production of South Pacific (which I loved), I had expected the same enchantment from another Rodgers and Hammerstein piece I hadn't experienced yet.
It's not that I wasn't enchanted. The performances could not have been any better. Jose Llana brought a finessed balance of power and wit to the King of Siam, both layered with a sentimental core. Madeline Trumble gave teacher Anna Leonowens a great amount of spirit and a commanding presence. Q Lim as Tuptim was a standout, portraying the young slave girl with vigor and passion, partnered beautifully with Kavin Panmeechao's strong Lun Tha. Joan Almedilla gave an unwavering performance as the king's head wife, Lady Thiang. A supporting cast filled with dynamically diverse children gave the show excellent stability.
The production design was incredible. Costumes by Catherine Zuber were well worthy of their Tony Award, with extravagant details and exquisite designs. Sets by Michael Yeargan were dynamic, featuring massive elements like a ship and statues. Choreography by Christopher Gattelli was vibrant, capturing the era of mid-1800s Siam with elegance, highlighted during the performance of "The Small House of Uncle Thomas."
However, while the show is a classic, and as faithful as this production is to the original work, the nearly 3-hour performance a lot to take in. Filled with many ballads and sentimental moments, I found myself captivated by the design and performances but not totally wrapped up in the storyline. Sure, the themes were risqué for their time, but for me the show seemed to rely on a nostalgic delivery. If you love this show, this production will surely astound and delight you...but as a first-time viewer, I found myself expecting something a little more enthralling. It just wasn't my cup of tea...I think I'd prefer an espresso.
The King and I plays the Buell Theatre with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through Jan. 14. Tickets are available at DenverCenter.org or by calling (303)893-4100.
Photos by Matthew Murphy