Set in the early 1860s in the Royal capital city of Bangkok in the Kingdom
of Siam, the story follows straight laced English school teacher, Anna
(Elizabeth Renihan) and her attempts at westernising the King (Kevin Gray)
and his extended family. He demands that people bow to him; she demands
he must begin to respect women, hence a power struggle begins.
The sheer joy of this production, like The Sound Of Music is seeing
the stern, stubborn male stare in awe as the governess mesmerises both him
and his children, enabling them all to grow. Gray brings a slice of New
York to the regions as he reprises his Broadway role as the King. His
performance is staggeringly heartfelt and full of depth. He manages to be
both scary and funny; he also invites the audience to empathise with this
great man of tradition and judging by their enthusiastic applause he
achieves this very well.
Renihan brings a new edge to Anna. She is at times spiky,
matriarchal and cynical but always warm and forgiving. Her singing voice
beautiful and during her rendition of "Getting To Know You" there isn't a
dry eye in the house. "Shall We Dance" highlights the leads' amazing
chemistry very well indeed.
Yanle Zhong deserves a special mention as Tuptim, one of the King's many
lovers. Her powerful, operatic voice sends shivers down the spine and
provides the musical with a slice of realism which never jars with the
upbeat numbers. The whole cast give marvellous performances;
including the hard working ensemble.
Rayne manages to juxtapose some of the darker aspects of the novel
alongside the songs. This works amazingly well and provides the audience
with a much clearer idea of what motivates these timeless characters.
The only downside is Brian Tohmson's regal set which often looks swamped on such a big stage. Despite that this lovely production will leave you
"Whistling a Happy Tune" for the most part until the emotive,
finale when you will probably shed a tear.. This sumptuous production is
worth getting to know.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester)