BWW Reviews: Colorful KING AND I Dances With Audiences

Visiting a different culture is always exciting. New colors. New characters. New traditions. So much to take in. On this count, Sacramento Music Circus's production of "The King and I" can do no wrong.

A second act story-within-a-story based on "Uncle Tom's Cabin" marvelously displays the exquisite details of Marcy Froehlich's Siamese costumes and picks up the pace and draw of the musical after a lengthy first act. The vocal talents on display are as good as it gets for Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic tunes - some of the most beautiful songs the duo has to offer. And while the pace and dialogue of the California Musical Theatre production suffer slightly during the first act, partly due to a poor script and overstretched dialogue, the emotionally stirring second act succeeds in jogging a tear or two from its audience.

Tuesday's opening night crowd burst into applause as British widow Anna and the stubborn king of Siam glided over the stage to the beloved "Shall We Dance." Christiane Noll and Paul Nakauchi make an endearing pair. Nakauchi, who has played the king on Broadway, tour and the West End, lacked a certain intensity in his version of the king, leaving Little Room for character development, but he was extremely likeable in his lighter, more humorous moments.

Audiences may recognize Noll from her turn as Anna's singing voice in the animated film based on the musical. Lovely and effervescent, Noll gives the only consistently strong performance of the production, while Tami Swartz as the king's wife Lady Thiang and Diane Phelan and Telly Leung as forbidden lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha all exhibit incredible voices, but do not leave a strong impression with their acting. The young Carter Thomas and Andrew Apy are joys to watch as the two main children of the musical, Anna's son Louis and the king's crowned prince Chulalongkorn. The Music Circus Junior Company fills in as the rest of the king's irresistible children.

Even with its isolated exotic scenic backdrop, the themes of "The King and I" are universal. In addition to amiable characters and gorgeous music, the show asks its audience to thing about how to define right and wrong, how to approach and appreciate other cultures, and much more. Viewers relate to the king's struggles to decide how to balance Siam's culture and history with Anna's Western influence, while Anna's desires for justice and love conflict with the values of an unfamiliar kingdom. The story and music will engage any theatre lover willing to wade through the slower moments of what has become one of the best-known musicals of all theatre.

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THE KING AND I
Sacramento Music Circus
Through August 11
http://?http://www.CALMT.com

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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