The King and I

"....there really is no puzzlement from me, it’s a straight 5 stars!  "

The Lincoln Center Theatre production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic ‘The King and I’ is a triumph and pure musical theatre bliss for any purist like me! I love nothing more than an old school musical packed full of beautiful songs and an incredible score.  We were so lucky to be treated to an outstanding orchestra for this performance under the musical supervision of Stephen Ridley who completely elevated the whole evening with a perfect sound.

As this musical has been around since 1944, you probably don’t need me to explain the story, but by way of a very condensed version The King of Siam (Darren Lee) hires English school teacher Anna Leonowens (Maria Coyne) to teach his many children at their Palace in order to try and modernise his country. Anna arrives aboard a ship from Singapore where she has been living with her son Louis since the death of her husband. She arrives at the Palace under the impression that she will be living ‘off site’ in her own house as was promised by the King, however this did not initially transpire, and they instantly get off on the wrong foot.  Over time and after staying much longer than was originally agreed, Anna and the King of Siam build a wonderful relationship and shared many lovely, and sometimes funny moments together.

Maria Coyne as Anna was completely mesmerising from start to finish.  Her voice suited the beautifully melodic songs with a touch of an operatic tone at times.  She portrays the head strong Anna extremely well and alongside Darren Lee as the King of Siam, their chemistry was strong.  There are many moments between the two with a ‘will they/won’t they’ vibe and they completely draw you in to their somewhat unconventional relationship. A highlight being ‘Shall We Dance’, a routine that garnered rapturous applause from the audience.

As you may imagine, The King of Siam has many wives, the head of which is Lady Thiang played magnificently by Cezarah Bonner.  She is the matriarch of the ‘family’ unit and instantly warms to Anna. Their relationship is that of true friendship.  Bonner shone during her many musical moments, especially with her rendition of ‘Something Wonderful’.  Heir to the throne Prince Chulalongkorn was played by Caleb Lagayan.  Clearly anxious with having to take over from his father when the time arose, Lagayan played the prince with an inherent seriousness. Providing a very strong vocal during his duet with Louis, ‘A Puzzlement’, I would have loved to hear more of his voice.

We also meet Tuptim, played by Amelia Kinu Muus, a “gift” to the King of Siam from the King of Burma.  Tuptim is in love with Lun Tha (Dean John-Wilson) and they have many moments in secret to be together.  John-Wilson has a stunning voice and really impressed with his performance of ‘I Have Dreamed’ alongside Muus who also has a beautiful tone.  In fact, all performers provided incredible vocals, which make the already wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein music come to life with pure emotion. 

The cast is vast for this production with many ensemble members, including some very talented children.  Each and every one bought plenty of energy and fun, especially during ‘Western Funny People’, a light hearted look at how people in the West dress. There were some wonderful dance routines in traditional dress too.

The set, designed by Michael Yeargan, albeit at times quite minimal, took us into the Palace and provided a sense of opulence and wealth.  The costumes, designed by Catherine Zuber also projected the idea of affluence with much of the clothing worn by the King covered in intricate gold stitching.

The King and I really is royally wonderful with a fantastic score, incredible performances by a very talented cast and there really is no puzzlement from me, it’s a straight 5 stars! 

This production was reviewed on the 1st March 2023.  The King and I runs at the Alexandra Theatre until the 4th March 2023.  Tickets available here: The King and I Tickets | The Alexandra, Birmingham Box Office | ATG Tickets

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Photo credit: Johan Persson

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