This sumptuous revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 Broadway musical is as colourful, impressive and lavish as when it first appeared at Leicester’s Curve at Christmas 2010.
Its repackaging for a national tour has removed none of its spectacle or charm, and the production’s many strengths will doubtless appeal hugely to its target audience of musical theatre fans.
Director Paul Kerryson shows his usual talent for weaving big images together with subtle, nuanced moments, so that the large-scale second-act ballet is just as visionary as the secret stolen liaison between the doomed young lovers is emotional and moving.
His enormous cast serve him well, as does the rich orchestra under the baton of Julian Kelly, all aided by some ravishing set and costume designs by Sara Perks and sparkling choreography from David Needham.
Ramon Tikaram – fresh from his turn as angry Muslim dad Qadim in EastEnders – makes an enormously likeable king, complex and challenging and full of depth and mystery. He sings and moves well, but his biggest advantage is his power to grip the audience as an actor, finding subtlety and authority in this sometimes tricky role.
Opposite him, Josefina Gabrielle is charming and bright-eyed as Anna, the schoolmistress employed to teach some of the king’s hordes of children. She has a delightful singing voice and is not short of acting talent herself, and there’s more than a hint of Julie Andrews about the no-nonsense manner and clipped English vowels, rendering her Anna both sweet and strong.
Supporting characters are generally sound, if occasionally looking a little too European for the story’s overtly Oriental demands, while the numerous local children cast as the royal offspring are well-drilled and thoroughly professional.
With the ever-present treat of Rodgers’s gorgeous score to entertain, it’s easy to overlook the long running time (nearly three hours) and sit back to let the senses revel in this fine, good-looking production of a 20th century classic.