BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

"The King and I" at the Starlight Theatre, in Kansas City, this week only!

The ever popular Rodgers & Hammerstein's musical about the Anna and the King of Siam is now showing at the Starlight Theatre, June 12-17th, 2018. Nearly 70 years after its original debut on Broadway the familiar tunes still enchant Kansas City audiences. With popular songs like "Getting To Know You," "We Kiss In A Shadow, "I Have Dreamed", and "Shall We Dance," the iconic show still lives up to its initial splendor. This production, a traveling production from The Lincoln Center in New York, is directed by Bartlett Sher and delivers exquisite costumes, captivating choreography, spectacular scenery, and a talent-filled cast. An evening under the stars for this performance has everyone "Whistling a Happy Tune" after the show.BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

The Starlight's wide proscenium has this show reaching to fill the expanse. The lavish set designs by Michael Yeargan include an opening steamboat that floats onto the stage in a mystic sea fog. Puzzlingly after this bold opening the ship splits apart, on stage, rather dampening the illusion, as the story continues. Anna, a British widow, and her son Louis have arrived in 1860s Siam to teach English to the children of the King. King Mongkut is concerned with the broadening of the British Empire to neighboring Burma and seeks to avert the same fate for his country. Learning the ways of the English while maintaining his country's culture creates ensuing conflict between the King and the newly arrived school teacher. Mongkut wants to modernize Siam, in an effort to resist colonialism, but finds the ways of the west that Anna and he discuss less favorable to tradition. The arrival of the British Ambassador has Mongkut appointing Anna to organize a "modern" welcoming in order to win favors with the visitor. The King and Ambassador wittily spar at the reception as Mongkut seeks to change the British impression that Siam is a barbaric and superstitious nation. As the visit ends the King finds himself drawn to Anna as they share an unexpected dance together.BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

A secondary story is introduced into the plot when the King is "gifted" the lovely Tuptim from the neighboring King of Burma. However, unknown to the King, Tuptim is already in love with Lun Tha who has followed her from Burma in hopes to extricate her. As the two lovers secretly meet in clandestine rendezvous they are unknowingly observed by others in the palace When Anna discovers the lovers she attempts to help them escape, but it's not as easy as it seems.BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

Catherine Zuber has crafted some beautiful costumes that capture the exotic place and romantic era. Choreography by Greg Zane provides a showcase for the dancers who struggle at times to remain in sync, but still add to the visual excitement. The youthful cast gives abundant energy, but miss some of the subtle nuances that draw the audience into each character. The primary leads Jose Llana, as the King and Elena Shaddow as Ana, produce viable chemistry and carry the show on their shoulders. Llana gives the King a fiery quality as the political tension rises. His angst is apparent as he grows to appreciate their differences, yet his sensitive side is not as easily accessible. Shaddow brings to Anna the determined quality of her strong-willed side, while still leaving room for compassion and tenderness in her lyrical vocals. Shaddows's performance builds like a suspenseful crescendo throughout the performance. Joan Alamedilla as Lady Thiang, delivers "Something Wonderful" with passion and vocal prowess. Q Lim, as Tuptim, and Kavin Panmeechao, as Lun Tha, are musically solid, but less emotionally convincing as the young lovers. Lim definitely has one of those crystal clear voices that particularly shine on a number like "I have Dreamed ." The combined effort of this talented cast with a show that has visual appeal, musical fun, with comedic moments and dramatic intrigue are sure to deliver "Something Wonderful" for everyone.

BWW Review: THE KING & I at STARLIGHT THEATRE Kansas City

For you theatre history buffs, the beginnings of "King and I" stem from the original 1951 cast's Anna, played by Gertrude Lawrence. As the story goes, Lawrence (a popular stage play actress) and her agent were in search of vehicle for her to shine in, on Broadway. Having purchased the book story rights to "Anna and the King" they sought out several composers to make a musical of it, finally landing with Rodgers & Hammerstein. Lawrence, in her 50's at the time and not known for musicals, was paired with 31 year old Russian-born actor Yul Brynner as the King of Siam; and these two leads ended up sharing a rather macabre connection. Lawrence unknowingly had liver cancer during the original production and following a matinee in 1952 she fainted and was taken to a hospital where she fell into a coma and later died. Anna was her final role and she was buried in the ballgown from the show's 2nd act. Brynner went on to play his iconic role an amazing 4625 times from 1951 until his final show in June of 1985. Brynner would succumb to lung cancer in October of that same year, making the King of Siam his final Broadway role.

Tickets for THE KING AND I at Starlight Theatre are available online at kcstarlight.com , by calling the box office at 816-363-STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City MO 64132

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