With a plot-line as slow moving as The King and I, the performance and technical aspects need to be astounding to balance out and put on a good show. Sadly, the current version of this classic production is mediocre at best. Ambassador Theater Group’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I follows the life of Anna Leonowens (Laura Michelle Kelly), an ambitious school teacher as she travels to 1860’s Siam to educate the King’s (Jose Llana) many children. Leonowens entered the country with the desire to change the lives of a few heirs to the throne, but she did not intend to change the mindset of the king, affecting the lives of his many subjects along the way.
As Laura Michelle Kelly first walked out onto the stage she was greeted with applause, the audience excited to be seeing such a big name. Her performance was outstanding, vibrato beautiful, and the empowering feminist message her character attempts to convey shines through vividly.
The dance numbers throughout the piece were well choreographed, portraying emotion in a fluid and moving manner. Many of the children participated in impressive acrobatics. As far as vocals go, the operatic style they seemed to be going for was trampled by an excessively bright tone and not a sufficient amount of space.
The one aspect that really came through with this show were the artistic set and design choices. The use of lighting projected from behind the backdrop created a beautiful effect as the colors faded and changed. The sunset in the first scene brilliantly vibrant. In a scene where the palace members out on a performance for their English guests, the backdrop is a gorgeous blue fabric that ripples looking like the aerial view of a rose.
This show has an important message of progression and feminism, but it is so bland and slow moving that even performed this well it was not exciting to watch. Although the artistic elements such as the dancing and backdrops were visually entrancing, the overall experience was not emotionally moving enough to make me want to see it again.