The King and I
Overbearing Sexism in 2017
The King and I has been a beloved show for decades in the United States, but is there room for it in our feministic culture of today? Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis now until March 5th. It tells the story of a British school teacher who goes to the country of Siam to teach all of the king’s children. The king has over 70 children, since he believes a man should have many wives. This show rolls at a much slower pace than most modern shows, but as a classical musical theatre production, it is bound to be successful.
With a slow-paced show about a sensitive topic, the actors did the best they could. They were outstanding. Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna) gave a compelling performance as an eloquent, strong-willed woman. Jose Llana (King) did an outstanding job playing a role of an arrogant man who is demeaning to women. The sets were simplistic, yet effective, and the lighting added even more. The beautiful sunsets that are portrayed with lights are breath-taking. The costumes were wonderfully intricate. To see Kelly dance in a large ball gown is classic and heart-warming.
The show totals at about three hours with an intermission. It seems as though it could have been shortened fairly easily. It is even hard for adults to sit through. Most of the songs sound pretty similar, so it is difficult to listen to repeated choruses and the same old tunes over and over. There seem to be a lot of opportunities to simplify the show. Songs like “The Royal Bangkok Academy” are good, but don’t need to be five minutes long. The audience gets the idea after the first two or three refrains.
Three hours gives the audience a lot of time to think about what is going on. A lot of the humor in the show is about how the King of Siam cannot see how women can be valued in a culture like England. These jokes just aren’t funny anymore. We live in a culture where women are fighting every day to be treated fairly. A show with humor like this being played across the nation is a setback for men and women fighting for equality. Though it is fun to see Broadway actors like Laura Michelle Kelly in your hometown, there isn’t room for The King and I anymore.
Musical theatre is supposed to change lives, not make women question theirs. When The King and I opened on Broadway in 1951, I’m sure the slow-paced style of theatre was fitting and relevant. However, in 2017, we can’t be making theatre that isn’t thought provoking and artistic. This show is perhaps important to know about, but not appropriate to be showcasing across the nation.