BWW Review: THE KING AND I Revitalized at Clowes Memorial Hall
Dylan and Celeste:
The musical, The King and I, accounts the experience of widow Mrs. Anna Leonowens (Anglea Baumgardner), an English school teacher, who was take on as a main driving factor in the King of Siam's push to modernize Siam in the late 1800s. Anna and her young son travel to Siam where she teaches the royals about culture, customs, and the modern world. With the King also being thought of as "a barbarian", Anna also prepares a formal party for English diplomats with hopes they will change their tune about the King.
We found THE KING AND I story referencing British colonialism a bit on the dated side for a contemporary audience. Classical tune such as 'Getting to Know You' and 'I Whistle a Happy Tune', of course, make an appearance, but they make it seem as if life would be immediately perfect to live in foreign countries. While I am sure it would be wonderful, Anna finds herself taking some time to get accustomed to life away from home.
Even though I was a bit in doubt, The King and I still thoroughly entertained us. The touring production has some serious top designs across the board. The costuming was gorgeously brilliant in a horde of colors. The setting was a bit more of a open concept and was used to the fullest extent, and it was beautifully framed with huge tapestries before scenes are set in the palace. Every inch of the stage was used to full effect from one scene to the next.
Be sure to pay some extra attention to Christopher Gattelli's choreography, harkening to the original by Jerome Robbins, in the second act during the presentation of 'The Small House of Uncle Thomas'. This astonishing ensemble of dancers easily formed one of the visual highlights of the show for us. The number is powerful to watch as each precise and perfectly timed movement had a specific purpose to draw the audience inward.
Under the direction of Bartlett Sher, there were some Great Performances. As the servant Tuptim, Paulina Yeung's operatic vocal resonance remained hung in the air after her powerful duet during 'We Kiss in a Shadow" with her intended Lun Tha. Deanna Choi as the King's head wife, Lady Thiang, exuded a soft but masterful serenity of emotional self-control. The beginning introduction of the royal princes and princesses during 'The March of Siamese children' also focused our attention on the hard-working young members of this touring company. However, it was Baumgardner's mounting soprano that kept the show afloat for nearly three hours, bringing a certain freshness to the familiar numbers of 'Getting To Know You' and 'Shall We Dance?'.
THE KING AND I is on stage at Clowes from now until March 10th.