This iconic musical is well known for its Film Adaptation in 1956, but The King and I made its debut on Broadway in 1951, based on the Margaret Landon's novel Anna and the King of Siam. Between 1952 and 2015, the musical has won awards time and time again and has been nominated an innumerable amount of times. The plot remains timeless and timely as two people of different cultures strive to understand the other in a rapidly changing world. While the plot holds value, this showing in particular has winning moments unique to itself.
Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) has a lovely singsong voice! It reminds me of a songbird. It isn’t exactly jaw-dropping, and that’s what I like about it. It isn’t a forceful sound that demands; rather, it floats throughout the theater, particularly during the heartwarming song “Getting to Know You.” Jose Llana, the king of Siam, somehow manages to make the king somewhat likable. I don’t completely despise him, due to fact that there are so many moments when Jose provokes our laughter. The only complaint is that at times he was hard to understand. Not necessarily because of his character’s accent, but more due to poor articulation. Graham Montgomery, Prince Chulalongkorn, is funny from the moment he steps onto the stage. His physicality is so big and bright! He expresses his character’s supposed sense of grandeur from the moment we first see him without uttering a single line. Impressive.
I think what makes this show most impressive is the costuming, by Catherine Zuber. Firstly, they are elaborate. From Anna’s wide-rimmed, smooth-as-buttercream-dresses, to the royalties finest, silk robes, not only are the costumes well detailed and express the cultures of the musical, they are also abundant in amount. Every new scene had numerous new and beautiful costumes, which indicates the careful, articulate detail that this show has embedded into it. I would also like to mention that the set, designed by Michael Yeargan, also shares this appreciation for detail. The set is vast, maybe even at times superfluous, but quite stunning. The transitions from scene to scene are so smooth, sometimes I didn’t even notice. It’s like flipping the page of a book that you're captivated by; the transitions do not slice the story. At times, it was difficult to hear the actors, partly articulation, partly the volume of the microphones at the beginning, but it wasn’t anything unadjustable.
More than anything else this version of The King and I is a musical centered around dance. This is particularly apparent in the second half when they have a guest to entertain. Due to this, though, dance pieces feel rather lengthy and lost my attention more times than I'd like to admit. Parts of the show felt unnecessary, even if it is always visually appealing. The King and I, though, is equally an abundant feast for the eyes as it is for the heart.