Roger’s and Hammerstein’s “The King and I”, set in the 1860s, follows Anna Leonowens on her new life in Siam as a school teacher to the King’s children. She serves as a mother figure and worldly advisor for the children and people of the kingdom who are naive to the King’s false teachings of the world.
Unproudly, I hardly know any classical musicals so I went into this relatively unfamiliar, knowing only what I had learned from rehearsal videos and brief internet summaries. After doing my research, I noticed how similar the character of Anna is to a character like Mary Poppins, and sure enough, Laura Michelle Kelly, who played Anna, was the perfect combination of Laura Osnes and Julie Andrews. Kelly took the contrasting characteristics of Anna’s stubbornness and elegance and created a beautifully complex, strong character that was easy to love and support. As far as lovable characters go, it is hard to get any more adorable than the King’s children. It was really cool to see performers so young create such fun, lovable, and unique characters right off the bat during “The March of the Siamese Children” and maintain it throughout the show.
One of the most powerful aspects of the show to me was how relevant it is to today’s society. Despite the fact that it took place over 100 years ago, there were so many themes and aspects of the show that are reappearing in today’s culture and it was amazing for me to watch the connections play out and see how the audience responded. I understand that this was majorly on the part of the writer, but I feel credit is due to the actors onstage who successfully created the connection that was so powerful. This was my biggest take-away from the show and I think that, especially in a story taking place so long ago, it is important that the audience can relate to what is being presented and the cast did a brilliant and impactful job of accomplishing this.
There was not a single sloppy moment of the show, carrying through to the technical aspects. The first thing I noticed when the show began was how beautiful the set was. Particularly in the beginning when Anna and her son, Louis (Graham Montgomery), were on the ship arriving in Siam, the gorgeous use of silhouette and lighting set up the stage beautifully and made me want to never look away. Every single movement during transitions had a purpose which I appreciated as an audience member, because far too often an actor will break character to do a transition and it messes with the flow of the show. Each character had a purpose and a motivation and it made the transitions as interesting to watch as the actual show itself.
The King and I, performing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through March 5 is a beautifully moving, impactful, and flawless show that is guaranteed not to disappoint.