Some of the most popular musicals written follow the story of two people coming from completely opposite lifestyles, butting heads, and eventually finding peace. Containing some of the most well-known songs in musical theater to this day, The Lincoln Center’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I proves to rightfully be amongst those popular shows. Set in the 1860’s, British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens moves to Siam to teach the Royal Children. She immediately proves that her different views will make her relationship with the King of Siam a difficult one. Throughout the show, Anna and the King attempt to find a balance in their relationship between friendliness and respect to ultimately, gain an understanding of one another.
Anna’s headstrong beliefs shone through beautifully with Laura Michelle Kelly’s performance. Kelly gracefully gave Anna the strong personality needed to portray Anna, all the while stunning the audience with her beautiful voice. Kelly’s remarkable performance was easily matched by Joan Llana’s performance as the King of Siam. Llana’s interpretation of the comically confused King had the audience on their toes throughout the entirety of the show. Kelly and Llana’s chemistry was obvious, and scenes with the two of them together, such as the famous “Shall We Dance” struck the audience with amazement as the two actors floated across the stage.
The strong performances throughout the show were only a few of the many jaw dropping elements in this production. Set designer Michael Yeargan continually took the audience’s breath away with elegant set designs. The use of a gold curtain in many scenes throughout the show, often illuminated by many different colors, added depth and helped set the tone in many scenes throughout the show. The curtain was a graceful a way to add simple elegance to the show, and fit the “regal” tone of the palace perfectly. Along with Yeargan's set designs, Christopher Gattelli’s choreography, most notably in “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” captured traditional Siamese dance beautifully and kept Siamese beliefs and traditions alive throughout the show.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the production, is that of the many children in the performance. The Royal Children are plentiful, and vary vastly in age. With all of the theatrics taking place on stage, not once did any of the children on stage obviously break character. Many of the children spend the majority of the show on stage, and every actor on stage geld their focus and portrayed their character wonderfully.
The King and I is a classic that is treasured by many theatergoers and Rodgers and Hammerstein fans. And this production, directed by Barrett Sher, continues to point out flaws in many political systems around the world, resonating with many of the audience members. The King and I offers a night filled with laughter and love, but it equally discusses many ethical and moral topics evident in the 1860’s, as well as today. The King and I will continue to entrance audiences at the Orpheum Theatre until Sunday, March 5th.