BWW Review: Romantic and Fierce THE KING AND I at The Fox Theatre
A touring company of Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I is currently playing the Fox Theatre, and it's a very engaging revival of the classic musical. It's an elegant and entertaining show that won a Tony award for best revival in 2015, and it's easy to see why. With familiar and lovely songs like "Getting to Know You" and the rousing "Shall We Dance," this venerable warhorse still lights up the stage, and I thoroughly recommend it!
The story relates the adventures of a British schoolteacher who's brought to Siam (it's based on the 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam) by the King to help with modernizing, what the world would perceive in the 1860's, as a less civilized country. Anna's arrival sets the plot in motion, with her and the King enduring an obvious romance with one another, even though both do their best to keep their feelings hidden.
Jose Llana is proud and fierce as the King, steeped in the rich traditions of his country, and reluctant to break with them, but also realizing that the time has come to enter the modern world. He's extremely well-matched with Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna (she performed the role in the production at The MUNY back in 2012), who delivers a wonderfully ingratiating performance. Anna and the King have a fragile kind of love forbidden by decorum, but nonetheless expressed rigorously in terpsichore with the always amusing and powerful number, "Shall We Dance." This pair is supported in their efforts by a fine cast, all decked out in the colorful Asian outfits and period wear of costumer Catherine Zuber. Some particularly strong work by Joan Almedilla (Lady Thiang), Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha), and Brian Rivera (the Kralahome) enlivens the proceedings considerably. Almedilla is also a veteran of the previous MUNY production.
Bartlett Sher's direction is lively (choreography by Christopher Gattelli), lush (musical direction by Ted Sperling), and eye catching (scenic design by Micheal Yeargan). The show is also dramatically lit by Donald Holder. All this talent makes this time tested warrior an effective diversion that's well worth catching.
Those who might be more inclined toward "politically correctness" than others, may find issue with some of the Asian stereotypes, but they're not dwelt upon, and the story does take place in the 1860's, so you have to take that into account. I think this is easily the best version of THE KING AND I that I've had the pleasure to review, and it continues through December 10, 2017 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy