Walking into a theatre knowing how famous and important the show you are about to watch tends to give you lots of expectations. The King and I didn't fit any of mine. It was a very well done show with lots of talent although at times it felt like a slow storyline to follow. The King and I opened on Broadway on March 29th, 1951 with lots of eager eyes. It is a show based off of Margaret Landon's book, Anna and the King of Siam. It’s a show about a british schoolteacher who came to teach the royal children of Bangkok, Siam. There is love, hate, and power throughout the show and somewhat surprises you.
One thing that stood out to me during the show is how talented the cast was. Anna Leonowens was the british schoolteacher played by the wonderful Laura Michelle Kelly, she owned the character and sang with poise and beauty. Jose Llana who played King of Siam was strong and confident in his character and overall was quite funny. He also had a strong belt and didn't miss a beat. Lady Thiang played by Joan Almedilla really lit up the stage, she felt so connected with her character and was delicate while she sang “Something Wonderful.” The ensemble was very well in sync and I think this is a hard show to do. Lots of history and old real traditions to follow. Strong knees they must have because of spending half the show kneeling and bowing. It felt like a culture shock just watching the show with my very 21st century I phone in my lap.
The costumes in this show were nothing short of beautiful. Costume designer Catherine Zuber made the costumes colorful, shiny, and from far away seemed like they were made out of silk. I thought that the set was also quite brilliant, opening the show on this huge ship that conquered the stage with a beautiful sunset in the back. The long poles to symbolize the palace were also beautifully carved and used in so many different ways. Using the same poles it seemed like the characters were in a different place in the palace every scene. They had long silky cloth thrown acros the stage at times to help with this allusion. The set designer for this show was Michael Yeargan. This was a very well directed show and of course the magic would not have happened without Director Bartlett Sher. The music and lyrics were very Golden Age and lots of it was sung in high soprano opera voices. It was calming music. The live orchestra was beautiful and I felt as if I was in Siam with the characters on stage.
Honestly one of the main things I took away from this show were the costumes, set, and lighting. It was all so astonishing and at some moments outshined the storyline itself. The King and I is a classic yet not what you would expect it to be. Its next stop is in Houston Texas at the Hobby Center. Go see The King and I for a different yet vibrant theatre experience.