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BrumHour saw The King and I at the invite of The Alexandra.
By Becky Kroon twitter.com/BeckyKroon
Review: The King and I at The Alexandra
Directed by Bartlett Sher, music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Following its critically-acclaimed sold-out season at The London Palladium, The Lincoln Center Theatre’s Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammertein’s The King and I stopped by at The Alexandra as part of its 2023 UK Tour. Directed by Tony Award-winning Bartlett Sher, the production is an utterly charming revival of the 1950’s classic that is delicious to watch alongside Rodgers’ timeless composition.
Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the plot follows a strong-willed, widowed school teacher, Anna Leonowens (played by Maria Coyne at this performance) who travels from imperialist Britain to Siam to teach the King’s many wives and children about British culture, language and history. With their relationship based on cultural disagreement and compromise, they grow to admire each other as Anna respects the King’s position of responsibility in an imperial society, while the King adapts to differing views of the role of women in a changing Western world. Despite the absence of Helen George, who is currently starring in the tour, Coyne performs the lead role elegantly with beautiful operatic vocals.
Siam’s strict patriarchy is present throughout the whole show. The King’s traditions in polygamy and female roles in the Royal household are consistently challenged by Anna’s Western ideology. Yet, the theme of rebellion is presented through Princess Tuptim (played by Amelia Kinu Muus), with the running away for love despite her marriage to the King. Tuptim’s rejection of her place in the patriarchy is exquisitely portrayed in the short Siamese ballet, ‘Small House of Uncle Thomas’, telling the story of runaway slave Eliza. Christopher Gattelli’s outstanding South Asian choreography was a particular highlight of Act 2, with the traditional dance creating tangible tension and humour as an allegory of the Tuptim’s experience.
Similarly, the theme of manhood and leadership played a big part in the show. Darren Lee’s compelling take on the King of Siam highlights the character’s desire to uphold his place in society to be respected, but more so, feared. However, the King’s kindness is subtly exposed by the children of the family, in which an endearing chorus of young actors disobey the rules of courtesy to the King by behaving as if he’s a playful father figure. Lee’s standout performance brings across a charming and humorous side to the King despite his determination to maintain patriarchal norms.
Overall, the production was a delight to the eye, with a wonderfully designed set with an even better collection of colourful and lavish costumes. Matched with a really strong ensemble performance, The King and I is a must-watch for those who are new to the musical.
The King and I is at The Alexandra until 4th March 2023. The tour currently continues until 1st July 2023. Find out more here: kingandimusical.co.uk Discover what is coming up at The Alexandra and book tickets using BrumHour’s affiliate link >> HERE <<.