“The King and I” was the fifth collaboration by Rogers and Hammerstein II. It stared Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner. Brynner became the quintessential King of Siam (his bare chest and shaved head were his calling cards) outlasting a series of leading ladies after Ms. Lawrence died unexpectedly of cancer. Before that, however she walked off with a Tony Award for Best Actress and Brynner won his for Best Actor.
|Elena Shaddow and Children|
Based on the 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon, as taken from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens (Elena Shaddow), a British schoolteacher who is hired by the King (Jose Llana) to teach his several dozen children and his many wives English.
In her role as teacher she would also help modernize his small country by working to reshape the King’s image. Outside and to the western powers he was thought to be a barbarian. She would dis-prove their suspicions. (“This Is a Man”)
|Elena Shaddow and Baylen Thomas|
Anna arrives in Bangkok, Siam in the tiny tip of Southeast Asia now known as Thailand, filled with pride and confidence. As she tries to convince her son Louis (Ryan Stout), that she is OK moving to another country. She surveys the situation with some hesitation. (“I Whistle a Happy Tune”). Things move quickly when she is escorted off the ship to meet the headstrong King.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of both Anna and the King as their differences about life in general surface amid an uncertainty of feelings they develop for one another.
Torn by his need to be a fair King and his obligation to demand respect from his followers, (“A Puzzlement”), he straddles his emotional pull against his historical place in his kingdom while she watches on sometimes in horror and others with admiration.
As the forces of his emotions seem to win out with dignity over the need to be right at all costs, Anna has the same struggles. She wavers back and fourth as her influence with the children and the many wives are oft times at odds with the softness she is developing toward the King as is witnessed when the two dance (“Shall We Dance?”) in a lively and long awaited production number.
Ms. Shaddow is everything one would want to see and hear in the role of a leading lady portraying an experienced schoolteacher exerting her femininity, pride and determination while she charts unfamiliar waters as a teacher in a foreign land in the 1980’s.
It also helps that she is convincing in her demeanor when she goes head to head with the all powerful king played with wonderful abundance by Llana either by being playful, demanding or in charge.
Supported by a strong and multi-talented cast the likes of Joan Almedilla, who plays the King’s Number One Wife, Lady Thiang with dignity, composure and understanding of the workings of her King. (“Something Wonderful”). She was on the National Tour of “Miss Saigon” and I hope we get a chance to see more of her.
|Q Lim and Kavin Panmeechao|
Brian Rivera is the King’s Prime Minister and interpreter and strong man Kralahome, whose regal presence is almost everywhere. Tuptim and Lun Tha (Q Lim and Kavin Panmeechao) are simply standouts as the forbidden lovers, stymied by the King to be together and encouraged by Anna (“Hello Young Lovers”) to flee; a not so wise and heartbreaking move after all. (“My Lord and Master”, “I Have Dreamed”)
Not to be overlooked is the oldest son Prince Chalalongkorn (Charlie Oh) at first appearing awkward and out of place making the slow move to assuming his own place in history when he sees his father ill and fading.
Oh’s transformation from boy to man brought a tear to my eye as the uncertainty of the child rose to the occasion to become the man/child and eventually, King issuing his own doctrines and new rules.
|Jose Llana and Elena Shaddow|
Choreographer Christopher Gattelli has outdone himself with the lively “Shall We Dance” and the Siamese ballet of Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is the best my memory can conjure of past performances of this show.
Now on its National Tour of the Lincoln Center Theatre production through July 1st praises to director Bartlett Sher, (It won four Tony’s includinh Best Revival in 2015) music supervisor Seth Wenig, set designer Michael Yergan, gorgeous costumes by Catherine Zuber and Donald Holders lighting design
|Shall we dance?|
The only thing I felt shortchanged by was the limited number of children in the “March of the Siamese Children”. I wanted it to go on forever. After all, over 70 kids?
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through July 1st
Organization: Broadway San Diego
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1103 3rd and B Streets downtown San Diego, 92101
Ticket Prices: Check Box Office
Photo: Jeremy Daniel