Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The King and I
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule
Also see Susan's reviews of The Mark of Cain and An Octoroon
The opulent and moving production of The King and I now at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington may well be the best version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's 1951 musical one is going to see, with inspired direction by Bartlett Sher, rapturous performances, and exquisite scenery and costumes.
Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana
As with his earlier production of South Pacific, Sher went back to Rodgers and Hammerstein's original notes and has restored some lines considered too controversial for the original version. The King (Jose Llana) speaks openly about the French colonization of neighboring Cambodia and says he would like to build a wall around Siam; he also notes his displeasure with Tuptim (Manna Nichols), the Burmese woman given him as a "present" but who loves another man.
Choreographer Christopher Gattelli follows the guidelines laid down by Jerome Robbins in the original production while making a few discreet additions and adaptations: including the mothers in the "March of the Siamese Children," tossing fans in one number, and a heightened sense of movement throughout. He and Sher also have restored "Western People Funny," a song in which the women of the Siamese court lament that they must wear ungainly hoop skirts and painful leather shoes to impress visitors from England.
As Anna Leonowens, the young widow determined to make a difference as schoolteacher to the King's children, Laura Michelle Kelly is both poised and impassioned, with a bell-like soprano voice and an underlying sense of purpose. Llana is a resolute King, prickly about being challenged but not afraid to change his mind about something, and together they strike sparks.
They are backed up by a fine supporting cast led by Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, the King's primary wife and another woman from whom he learns, with Nichols as Tuptim and Kavin Panmeechao as her forbidden lover Lun Tha.
Sher originally directed the show for Lincoln Center Theatre, where it was performed on the thrust stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, and has intelligently tweaked his design to fit comfortably on a traditional proscenium stage. Michael Yeargan's sets offer both spectacle and detail, encompassing the harbor where Anna's ship docks, the crowded Bangkok streets, and many rooms in the King's palace. Catherine Zuber has designed breathtaking, Tony Award-winning costumes.
The King and I
July 18th - August 20th, 2017
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based upon the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon
Anna Leonowens: Laura Michelle Kelly
King of Siam: Jose Llana
Lady Thiang: Joan Almedilla
Kralahome: Brian Rivera
Tuptim: Manna Nichols
Lun Tha: Kavin Panmeechao
Prince Chulalongkorn: Anthony Chan
Louis Leonowens: Graham Montgomery
Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsay: Baylen Thomas
Phra Alack: Darren Lee
Princess Ying Yaowalak: Rylie Sickles
Royal Court Dancers: Stephanie Lo, Jeoffrey Watson
Fan Dancers: Mindi Lai, Yuki Ozeki
Royal Wives, Townspeople: Amaya Braganza, Lamae Caparas, Michelle Liu Coughlin, Nicole Ferguson, Marie Gutierrez, Mindy Lai, Q Lim, Stephanie Lo, Yuki Ozeki, Michiko Takemasa
Guards, Monks, Townspeople: Andrew Cheng, Daniel J. Edwards, Darren Lee, Michael Lomeka, Nobutaka Mochimaru, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, Emilio Ramos, Sam Simahk, Jeoffrey Watson
Royal Children: Jaden D. Amistad, Kayla Paige Amistad, Adriana Braganza, Amaya Braganza, Mindy Lai, Rylie Sickles, Noah Toledo, CJ Uy
The Small House of Uncle Thomas (Ballet):
Eliza: Lamae Caparas
Uncle Thomas: Amaya Braganza
Angel/George: Nobutaka Mochimaru
Topsy: Yuki Ozeki
Simon of Legree: Rommel Pierre O'Choa
Little Eva: Michiko Takemasa
Propmen: Daniel J. Edwards, Darren Lee, Sam Simahk
Dogs: Marie Gutierrez, Mindy Lai, Stephanie Lo
Guards: Andrew Cheng, Michael Lomeka, Jeoffrey Watson
Royals Singers: Michelle Liu Coughlin, Q Lim, Nicole Ferguson
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli, based on the original choreography by Jerome Robbins
Music supervisor: Ted Sperling
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org
For more information on the tour, visit thekinganditour.com.