BWW Reviews: Walnut Street Theater's THE KING AND I is 'Something Wonderful'
The Walnut Street Theater welcomes all to their Winter Season production of The King and I.
Almost every Rodger's and Hammerstein song is a recognizable hit - "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello Young Lovers," "We Kiss in a Shadow," "Shall we Dance" and we could hear the appreciatve opening night crowd softly singing a few of them in an undertone.
While audiences may recall the 1951 Tony Award Winning perfommances of Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence and the 1956 musical to movie again starring Yul Brynnerand Deborah Kerr, this production proudly honors that same glorious tradition.
Some of the credit going to Robert Andrew Kovachs lush set consisting of simmering draperies of purple and red, dragons, elephants, warm flames and brilliant orange red backdrops, even a Buddha with moving arms. The stage is transformed into an exotic palace fit for a king.
Speaking of a king, Walnut welcomes back Miss Saigon's Barrymore nominated Mel Sagrado Maghuyop as the King of Siam. Bare chested and bald Maghuyop looks a bit like Brynner. However this king is Asian as are many of the cast members adding splendid authenticity to the piece.
Sagrado's king is fierce, engaging, stubborn, and at times delightfully playful. He has met his match with Broadway's Rachel York, playing the straightforward, bold Anna Leonowens who is brought from Britan to teach the King's several children and wives the Western way of life. York brings fire and sensitivity to the role. Her practically perfect English accent and mannerisms are reminnescent of the great Julie Andrews who Ms. York once played opposite in Victor/Victoria. Her gorgeous and powerful voice sends the wonderful hit songs she sings soaring through the theater. This match up is both entertaining and a bit sensuous.
Standout performaces are offered by the ill fated lovers Tuptim (Manna Nichols) and Lun Tha (Austin Ku), whose touching drama breaks hearts and flawless voices blend beautifully in lovely renditions of "We Kiss in a Shadow", and "I Have Dreamed".
Angelica- Lee Aspiras gives an exceptional performance as the king's head wife, Lady Thiang with strong dramatic acting and a voice that brings great power to the beautiful song "Something Wonderful."
Veteran costume designer Colleen Grady has out done herself to produce lavish gorgeous gowns, hoop-skirted dresses and shimmering, silky, needle point outfits worn by the Siamese men, women, and children.
The highlight scene of the evening has to be the presentation of "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" where Robbin transforms the ridged Burmese style dance into a Western cultural ballet with swirling graceful moves, Pointe, tutus included, much to the delight of the audience.
Walnut's The King and I will be a warm and inviting break away from the hustle bustle of the Holiday Season as it will run through January 8th. For more information and tickets visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org or call 215.574.35550.
Photo Credits: Walnut Street Theater website
Photo Credits: Pati Buehler