This review is from an earlier tour stop - at The Lowry, Salford on 22 February, 2012.
Rogers & Hammerstein's The King and I
is memorable to many as a film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner
which focuses on a feisty British school teacher Anna and her
relationship with the King of Siam. But it has also been seen on the
stage with the likes of Elaine Paige, Jason Lee, Brynner himself and
recently Stephanie Powers.
Essentially a character piece, we
witness a relationship which starts off as a frosty confrontational
experience - begin to thaw when both parties recognise cultural
differences and begin to take on good qualities from each other. Sure,
it's predictable and quite slowly paced but there are many beautiful
scenes and the performances alone - give the piece quality and life.
Gabrielle is an absolute joy as Anna, as she imbues her with stern
teacher qualities but also also conveys the vulnerable elements of her
character - lending genuine poignancy to many of the scenes in act two.
She sings with clipped tones and hits all of the high notes with ease. I
have yet to see this fine actress deliver an average performance in the
likes of Sweet Charity, Chicago and Me & My Girl and A Chorus Line
as she is always reliably great and a chamelon. Even though Anna is not
a stretch for her, she gives far more than is on the page.
Ramon Tikaram gives a multi-layered performance, as he has great
comic timing and highlights that beneath the tough exterior the King is a
frightened man with too much power. His vocals are rich and the
chemistry between him and Gabrielle is totally believable.
the supporting actors Daniel Cornish stands out as he plays a boy on
the verge of becoming a man and his turn as Anna's son is convincing
again because of the great chemistry he shares with Josefina. The
romance betwen Tup-Tim (Claire-Marie Hall) and Lun Tha (Adrian Ll
Donni) is more than a sub-plot and is incredibly romantic due to the
spirited performances. A special metion should go to local children from
Salford who play the King's brood as they add something special to this
The songs of course are classics - although -
"Shall We Dance" is the one on the audience's lips on the night I
attended - partly due to Josefina Gabrielle's superb rendition and
because it is the most famous of all the songs. "Getting To Know You"
and "Whistle a Happy Tune" are also sang with panache.
Needham's choreography has style and grace which matches the piece
perfectly and Sarah Perks' set design places the audience in this
grandiose world - transporting them without the aid of flashy gimmicks.
Aside from a few dodgy accents amongst some members of the cast, much of
what you see here will please lovers of the film and score.
Kerryson's production is faithful to the original and even though the
pace needs upping slightly and a few scenes could benefit from a cut
here and there, his King and I
is slick, romantic and perfectly played by a cast who live up to the
meaning of the word 'team' as they all work wonderfully together and
it's a fun and enjoyable evening - 'getting to know them.'