Chad Reviews "The King And I"
As a theatre critic, I have had the unique privilege of witnessing some truly amazing musical stage productions from modern day blockbusters to cherished classics. Inevitably, and in this case fortunately, I get the distinct pleasure of witnessing the return of a show I’ve seen before with a completely different cast which also happens to be one of my all-time favorite productions. The first time I saw “The King and I” with Yul Brynner from 1956, I was completely captivated by it, and made me appreciate the art form beyond being just a “kid’s movie” like the previous experiences. It brought a level of beauty and pageantry that I had never seen before, instilling in me a love for musical theatre far more than I ever imagined. In 2015, I was fortunate to see it in person for the first time, and it was everything I had ever hoped for. Now, the Winspear Opera House in Dallas brings the Lincoln Center Theater Production of “The King and I” back to the Metroplex.
This is the timeless story of Anna Leonowens (Laura Michelle Kelly), who is brought to the kingdom of Siam by it’s all-powerful King (Jose Llana) to teach his children and his wives the ways of modern Western culture so they don’t seem so uncivilized to the dignitaries that visit them on a fairly regular basis. In the process, their lives become intertwined with each other, as well as with Tuptim (Q Lim), a slave girl offered as a gift to the King, and Lun Tha (Kavin Panmeechao), the messenger that delivers Tuptim who also happens to be in love with her. The journey that follows is one of love, passion and self-discovery, as the King winds up learning just as much from Anna as his children have.
This production was even more spellbinding than the previous stop in Dallas. Kelly could not be more perfect for the role of Anna, applying an immaculate balance of grace and gusto with a beautiful voice and fantastic stage presence that left me completely smitten. Llana’s King of Siam is absolutely perfect in his role, wearing it like a silken robe that was tailor made for him. Following in Yul Brenner’s footsteps is no small feat, but he pulls it off with impeccable aplomb and intensity. The primary component in the relationship between the two leads is chemistry, and they have it on lock down, with a give-and-take that is simply joyous to watch. The set and costume design is marvelous, and the supporting cast is as strong as anybody could hope for, with standout performances from Lim and Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang. This is a perfect way to kick of the holiday season as the production feels as timeless as ever, serving as a shining example of why musical theatre remains one of the purest forms of entertainment available today.