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The King and I with Kevin Gray

With its dramatic overture of crashing cymbals and flaring trumpets, the fifty-four year-old King and I remains an important piece of work, and with Jerome Robbins' choreography in tact, this revival is a is a sumptuous feast of colour and sparkle.

Reprising the role he has played several times before is Kevin Gray as the King. In his interview with Broadwayworld.com he stated that he'd not been 'completely satisfied' with his previous attempts, and that this tour was his final shot. If that's true then he should feel he's finally cracked it, for he gives a commanding performance that slowly unravels revealing new depths to a character we're so familiar with. Like the King, Gray is unbreakable, powerfully holding his ground. As Anna, Elizabeth Renihan has a pleasant, calming aura, and a voice that sounds remarkably similar to the soothing tones of Julie Andrews, a Rodgers and Hammerstein protégée.

The scenes with Anna and the King together are absorbing and carefully directed. As we watch a frail relationship unfold and develop, the scenes mirror the ones where Belle tames the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, ironic as that show is currently playing next door to the Nottingham/> venue. In particular, Anna's stubbornness to conform to his demands of respect is gently amusing. 'Gentle' is certainly an adjective one can use to describe this production, you won't find any bad language or gritty situations, though it does succeed in bringing out the darker sides of the story.

The performance of Tuptim by Yanle Zhong is the one to watch out for; a flaming passion beautifully expressed through her desperate eyes and striking appearance. Her performance is genuinely touching; when she breaks down to nothing in fits of tears there is a real heartfelt emotion towards her. I'd love to see Zhong play Kim in Miss Saigon one day - it takes an exceptional performer to handle the complexities of Kim's performance and this remarkable performer definitely possesses this.

 Stephen Rayne directs an epic production without sacrificing the finer details, such as the amusing entrances from each of the King's young children; each child cleverly portraying different emotions. In fact, special mention must go to the integration of the children in the performance, eight of them in total. More often than not with touring shows children are relegated to the sidelines, here Rayne is not afraid to embrace their necessity and they certainly liven the production.

The tinny, scratchy microphones give strange amplification to the performers, but that shouldn't matter as my seat came with surround sound; the woman next to me decided to whistle her own happy tune, as did a man a few seats down – loudly. As if I wasn't lucky enough, the man next to me proceeded to tell his wife in Shall We Dance that he too – like the King – knew the rhythm to the polka dance. Fascinating stuff. But the predominantly older audience, many of whom brought their grandchildren, consider this show a classic. That's good, because there is a refreshing wave of innocence about the whole of Rayne's production, an imaginative revival for the Lost in Translation generation, seeing the collision of two cultures and the way in which each side adapts, particularly through the children's eyes.

Emma Roytt's recereation of Brian Thomson's original designs show splendour, wealth and glamour. The costumes are simply stunning and of vast quantity too; the staging of Small House of Uncle Thomas is worth the ticket price alone for sheer spectacle, a story told through dance and song with glittering costumes and haunting melodies. With Jerome Robbins' choreography too, this is fifteen minutes of theatre where we can appreciate its status as a classic. Occasionally theatre should take time to remember the shows which set standards for where we are today. The King and I is one of these; an important show given a worthy rendition.

Reviewed at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham/>.


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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)