The Paul Kerryson directed revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The King and I opens at The Mayflower to a mature audience ready for a trip down memory lane.
Ramon Tikaram - whose theatre performances include Bombay Dreams and Jesus Christ Superstar Anna - played by Josefina Gabrielle - boasts a long musical pedigree including Chicago, Oklahoma, and most recently Sweet Charity. Carrying her vast, ballooning dresses with utmost conviction and elegance, she sets the bar high with her delightful opening number `I Whistle A Happy Tune. ` She gives a believable account of a feisty English schoolteacher with her cut-glass accent, and her moving rendition of ` Hello Young Lovers` gives the audience a chance to view another aspect of her starchy character.
Complimenting the character of Anna is James Hurst`s authentic performance as English Lord Sir Edward Ramsey. Tup-Tim played by Claire-Marie Hall is excellent, as is Adrian Li Donni ( as Lun-tha) both giving touching performances as tragically separated lovers.
The children are charming, their performance touching, and Gabrielle singing the familiar moving song `Getting To Know You` while surrounded by a group of the King’s offspring is a triumph.
Tikaram (the King) however gives an appropriate but not quite as convincing performance with a voice that does not carry the power or strength of the character he plays.
The scenery, modestly designed by Sara Perks, complete with giant gold Buddhas, portrays Siam as an elegant and cultural country. The Act 2 ballet, with its colourful scenery and lively cast is a delightful storytelling in dance and song. An amusing performance of `Western People Funny` by Lady Thian (Maya Sapone) and the King`s wives gave way to Aiko Kato`s lively portrayal of Elizabeth... A joy to behold! Her dancing and acting keeps the audience in her thrall throughout. Also outstanding is Makoto Iso as Little Eva who`s concentration and control are stunning.
Secondary characters also perform well in the ballet, the small house of Uncle Thomas, with its combination of ballet, lively acrobatics, song and comedy, is superb.
The unmistakeable chemistry between Gabrielle and Tikaram gives credibility to the familiar favourite `Shall We Dance`, topped off by a glorious finale of music, dance, colour and sumptious costumes.
Supported by a wonderful ten piece orchestra conducted by Julian Kelly, this powerful drama with its well-loved songs is musically enhanced, whilst retaining the integrity of the original story.