I haven’t seen a show I didn’t like in a long time. Every single time I leave the theatre thinking, that is one of my favourite shows. Because each and every production has had a merit that has me loving the theatre a little more than I ever thought possible. However Bartlett Sher’s production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s, The King And I is in a different league entirely.
It’s EVERYTHING I love about the theatre and more. I can’t think of another production I have seen, where I shed tears for no other reason than the beauty and nostalgia that the show conjures.
A Little History About The King And I
“The King and I” is a musical based on the novel “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon. The musical tells the story of widow Anna Leonowens (Annalene Beechey) a British schoolteacher and her son Lois are hired by the King of Siam (Darren Lee) now Thailand. To teach his many wives and children English and help modernise the country.
The musical features music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Some of the most famous songs from the show include “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” and “Shall We Dance?” The show originally premiered on Broadway in 1951 and has since been revived several times.
“The King and I” has also been adapted for film and television numerous times. Including a 1956 film starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. The musical has also been performed around the world and has won multiple Tony Awards for its productions on Broadway.
As such the production has been praised for its stunning costumes and sets, as well as its portrayal of the relationship between Anna and the King. However, has also faced criticism for its portrayal of Thai culture and its historical accuracy. Despite this, “The King and I” remains a beloved classic of musical theater.
What Is The Show About?
The King And I portrays the building relationship of Anna and The King. A man accustomed to adoration and worship from all around him. Who demonstrates power and control, yet has a vulnerability and self doubt he can not share with those who rely on him.
Anna, being such a strong independent woman, provides the King with a challenge he has never before encountered. From the moment he meets Anna she becomes somewhat of an enigma. After getting over his initial shock at Anna’s strong will and conviction, he begins to respect her intelligence and opinions.
Meanwhile Anne builds friendships and the respect of the Kings wives and many courtiers in the palace. Yet becomes a threat to some of the Kings closest advisors. Who resent how she is modernising the Kings views of the world and how he runs his Kingdom.
Annas’ teachings also gain the trust and love of the Kings children. Including the future King, Prince Chulalongkorn (Caleb Lagayan) as she educates them of a world outside Siam.
As Anna builds a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the King she starts to assist in making small but significant changes in the palace, and also of how the world sees Siam. However she can not reconcile herself with the Kings attitude to the women of the country.
This ultimately becomes a sticking point when the King stops one of the palace courtiers, Princess Tuptim (Marienella Phillips) escaping. The King is torn between punishing her and listening to Anna and becoming the modern man he so desired to become. This turmoil affects his heart and the demise of his health.
My Review Of The King And I
The King and I is very close to its original roots, if not identical, yet it feel fresh and new. From the starting scene as the ship rolls into port. To the spellbinding curtain that changes colour with the light, and looks so regal at times it took my breath away. And the garden courtyard scenes that although so simple are simply stunning. The costumes were the stuff of Hollywood dreams.
At times I forgot I was watching a production, I could have been curled on my sofa alone watching a huge screen. That is the power The King And I portrayed! It felt alive, theatrical, powerful and rather than a set it felt as if I was watching it on the big screen.
As I took in every beautiful detail of the ‘Getting To Know You’ scene, I had to stop the tears escaping. These were not tears of sadness but joy and gratitude. That such a Hollywood great had been portrayed in a way that it made me feel exactly the same way, as the first time I ever saw the movie.
I can’t even put it into words, its a feeling in your heart of warmth, joy, nostalgia and love and that is exactly how The King And I made me feel.
The King And I is overwhelmingly beautiful in an understated way. The incredible acting and voices that had you invested into the characters as they made their entrances. It was delivered with a warm humour that had the audience laughing along and the children were just adorable. Honestly if you are going to see one show in your lifetime, let it be The King And I.
Where Can I See The King And I UK Tour?
The King and I is showing at the Palace Theatre Manchester until the 13th May. With tickets from £13.00 and then on tour at the following locations.
- King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 16 May – Sat 20 May 2023
- Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Tue 30 May – Sat 3 Jun 2023
- Edinburgh Playhouse, Tue 12 Sep – Sat 16 Sep 2023
- New Victoria Theatre, Woking, Tue 26 Sep – Sat 30 Sep 2023
- New Theatre Oxford, Tue 3 Oct – Sat 7 Oct 2023
- Milton Keynes Theatre, Tue 7 Nov – Sat 11 Nov 2023
I was gifted tickets in return for an honest review. However I never expected The King And I to fill my heart with such joy.