THE KING AND I(National Tour)
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Associate Director – Sari Ketter
Music Supervisor – Ted Sperling
Music Coordinator – David Lai
Music Conductor – Gerald Steichen
Orchestrations – Robert Russell Bennett
Dance & Incidental Music Arrangements – Trude Rittmann
Choreographer – Christopher Gattelli
Associate Choreographer – Greg Zane
Set Design – Michael Yeargan
Lighting Design – Donald Holder
Sound Design – Scott Lehrer
Costume Design – Catherine Zuber
Wigs & Hair Design – Tom Watson
Production Stage Manager – Peyton Taylor Becker
King of Siam – Jose Llana
Anna Leonowens – Laura Michelle Kelly
Lady Thiang – Joan Almedilla
Kralahome – Andrew Cheng
Tuptim – Q Lim
Lun Tha – Kavin Panmeechao
Prince Chulalongkorn – Anthony Chan
Louis Leonowens – Rhyees Stump
Captain Orton / Sir Edward Ramsey – Patrick Boll
Phra Alack – Darren Lee
Princess Ying Yaowalak – Keira Belle Young
Royal Court Dancers – Saki Masuda, Jeoffrey Watson
Fan Dancers – Rie Hatanaka, Yuki Ozeki
Royal Wives, Townspeople – Kayla Page Amistad, Lamae Caparas, Michelle Liu Coughlin, Nicole Ferguson, Marie Gutierrez, Rie Hatanaka, Saki Masuda, Yuki Ozeki, Alicia Shumway, Michiko Takemasa
Guards, Monks, Townspeople – Max B. Ehrlich, Darren Lee, Michael Lomeka, Nobutaka Mochimaru, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, Kevin Schuering, Jeoffrey Watson
Royal Children – Jaden D. Amistad, Kayla Paige Amistad, Sydney Chan, Rie Hatanaka, Spencer Donovan Jones, Noah Toledo, CJ Uy, Keira Belle Young
The Small House of Uncle Thomas (Ballet)
Eliza – Lamae Caparas
Uncle Thomas – Kayla Paige Amistad
Angel/George – Nobutaka Mochimaru
Topsy – Yuki Ozeki
Simon of Legree – Rommel Pierre O'Choa
Little Eva – Michiko Takemasa
Propmen – Max B. Ehrlich, Darren Lee, Kevin Schuering
Dogs – Marie Gutierrez, Rie Hatanaka, Saki Masuda
Guards – Andrew Cheng, Michael Lomeka, Jeoffrey Watson
Royal Singers – Michelle Liu Coughlin, Nicole Ferguson, Alicia Shumway
Swings – Stephanie Lo, Marcus Shane, Ryan Stout
Reviewed Performance: 12/19/2017
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the novel “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon, the original material for the musical is derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens who was governess to King Mongmut's children in the 1860s. As such, the plot revolves around Anna, a young British widow, who travels to Siam with her young son, Louis, to teach the children of their King. What follows is a clash of cultures between two stubborn, yet deeply caring individuals, who eventually develop a mutual admiration. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, through this lens, the King and I explores the complexities of British colonialism during the Victorian era and reminds us that the cultural changes that tumble from one nation to another are not only political, but deeply personal as well.
Premiering on March 29, 1951 at Broadway's St. James Theatre, The King and I ran for nearly three years. Since then, it has enjoyed many successful revivals, and this production is no exception; it is the national tour of the 2015 Broadway revival, which won the Tony for Best Revival largely due to Director Bartlett Sher's stunning staging. Beyond that, from the impassioned singing to the intricate choreography, the show and its cast are inspired, as is the aesthetic experience that it’s closely intertwined set, lighting, and costume design engender.
The spectacle begins from the opening scene, when we are introduced to Siam at the same time as the Leonowenses—as their intricately detailed 19th-century ship parts a rolling blanket of fog to arrive in the harbor, where Anna and Louis will await the arrival of Kralahome, the emissary who will escort them to the palace. But it is not until the Leonowenses are firmly ensconced within the palace walls that the true magic begins.
From this point forward, the production is a visual feast of color and texture that begs to be devoured. Everywhere, there are glints of gold and silk—the gleam of satin and the quiet sheen of dupioni. Colors are saturated and unapologetic—purples, teals, and cranberries are dotted with shimmering golden embroidery. Light shifts through the colors of a sunset, emphasizing shadow and gliding over the rich fabrics of the costumes and curtains, across the carved teak pillars and smooth palace walls, and as they change, you feel yourself lean in and succumb to the enchantment of Siam.
Later, when Anna whirls amid shifting pillars in the arms of the King, even her ball gown takes on a life of its own—her skirts pivot in time to the music, and the gown's shade shifts subtly from lavender to mauve and back again—and we wonder if this is a trick of the light. In fact, it is not—the gown, which Costume Designer Catherine Zuber affectionately nicknamed “the snowplow,” is constructed of twenty yards of luminous satin with interwoven lavender and magenta threads that give it its changeable appearance. Oh, and the circumference of the hem is 355 inches. And this is just one example of the opulence of this production.
Better, though the production revels in spectacle, it does not overdo it. Subtle underlying emotion expressed during interspersed solos, duets, and dances performed between major scenes balances the drama, as does the individualism and depth expressed by even its smaller characters. One example of this is during “The March of the Siamese Children”, when the King's numerous offspring are introduced to Anna. Here, we not only see every child's distinct personality shine through, but also notice the King's response to each child, and the anxiety of each child's mother. Later, during the Siamese interpretation of “Uncle Tom's Cabin”, we observe not only the magnificent Thai ballet, but also the reactions of those watching it.
This individualism is a remarkable feat considering the immense size of the supporting cast, all of whom are readily identifiable even in their smallest roles. All of the children and wives have their own unique quirks, as does Phra Alack with his quiet presence, and the various supremely talented dancers are mesmerizing. Unsurprisingly, the main actors are equally masterful.
Laura Michelle Kelly plays Anna with elegant candor. Kelly's Anna is resolute, yet empathetic. She displays wisdom, but not fatigue; her undercurrent of loss is palpable, but she is not wearied by it. Kelly's Anna is indomitable and still very much a romantic, as can be seen early on in the show during her performance of “Hello, Young Lovers”, and later in her exasperated head shaking, yet subtle manner of tenderly leaning in toward the King.
Jose Llana is the King of Siam and plays him superbly. Llana focuses more on the uncertainty underlying the King's domineering display, which adds not only to the depth of his character, but also to the humor found within the script. Llana immense range is on full display in this role; his comedic timing is impeccable, yet he is still able to repeatedly break the hearts of his audience members.
Andrew Cheng played the Kralahome, the King's prime minister, at this performance and did so with just the right amount of intensity. Cheng's understated presence was always felt in his scenes, and the Kralahome's dismay with change was evident through Cheng's surprised facial expressions and occasional slumped shoulders, which gave the impression that Kralahome's disappointment came from a place of deep admiration for his king rather than a fear of losing power. This impression made his final words to Anna all the more affecting.
Joan Almedilla's Lady Thiang, first wife of the King, is less subservient than other variations of the role that I've seen, and more ruled by a self-contained adoration for her King. Her voice is full and wrenching, particularly during her beautiful rendition of “Something Wonderful”.
As Tuptim, gift to the King and one half of a pair of star-crossed lovers, Q Lim combines an angelic voice and quiet presence with a smoldering inner fire. Though physically small, Lim's Tuptim claims her space and her presence looms whenever she is on stage. Kavin Panmeechao's Lun Tha shares a similarly strong presence while emphasizing the boyish idealist in his character. The result is a bit puzzling, as I found myself wondering about the chemistry between these two characters, particularly when Lim's voice was sometimes drowned out during their duets. Overall, both play their characters admirably—I just wasn't quite convinced that they belonged together.
Anthony Chan as Prince Chulalongkorn, the crown prince, is startling. In prior productions, this character has been one that I find rather unlikable. Chan, however, focuses less on Chulalongkorn's haughtiness and more on the similarities to his father and creates such a moving and realistic slow trajectory of change that I found myself drawn more to this character than ever before. In fact, at the play's conclusion, I found that Chulalongkorn was a new favorite, which can only be credited to Anthony Chan's masterful portrayal.
Rhyees Stump as Louis Leonowens is delightfully deadpan in his delivery and is particularly amusing during his interactions with Chan's Chulalongkorn. He is also quite engaging when interacting with Kelly's Anna.
Patrick Boll plays both Captain Orton, the captain of the ship to Siam, and Sir Edward Ramsey, Anna's longtime friend and goodwill ambassador for the British, and so perfectly separates both characters that I did not realize he played both until after the performance was over. While both characters reveal a certain protectiveness toward Anna, Boll's Orton is slower and more methodical, while his Sir Ramsey is clipped and proper, yet still conveys all the enthusiasm of encountering a long-lost love.
And that enthusiasm is what I too felt when I left the theater; it was if I had spent the evening with something long missed. I suppose that some works are so familiar and so cherished that it's like meeting a long-lost friend with whom one has the good fortune to cross paths. And that's what AT&T Performing Arts Center has brought us. Just in time for the holidays—a reunion with old friends.
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street
Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through December 31st.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays and Sundays at 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm, with an extra matinee on Friday, December 29th at 2:00pm.
Ticket prices are $25.00 to $178.00, according to seating and performance date. Discounted tickets for teachers, educators, and staff on Thursday, December 21st.
For production information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.attpac.org/on-sale/2017/thekingandi/ or call the box office at 214-880-0202.