One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, THE KING AND I tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children about the Western World.
Set in 1860’s Bangkok, Anna (Laura Michelle Kelly) and her son Louis (Rhyees Stump) arrive by boat to Siam in high spirits about their new adventure that’s been set into motion. With the sole responsibility of teaching the women and children of the palace, Anna promptly meets the King of Siam (Jose Llana). Now the King isn’t one to take orders or even ‘suggestions’ from other people but, Anna arrived on the scene with the sort of British forthrightness that the King had never experienced before. At one point he even says under his breath, “nobody has ever spoken to me like this before!”
During her first initial encounter, she wasted no time in challenging the King because of their initial agreement: for Anna to have her own house for her and her child to live in. The King renigged on this agreement and forced her to stay in the palace to her chagrin. Whilst sulking after hearing the disappointing news, the King was presented a gift from Burma in Tuptim (Q Lim). Anna was disgusted that the King would accept such a gift as humans should not be treated as slaves. Again, he was shocked at how she approached him.
As you can imagine, the main characters in the story have a type of “Beauty and the Beast” relationship, as the more positive and softer Anna begins to tear down that wall of anger and fear from the King of Siam. While their story begins with an argument about her living quarters it buds into teaching him how to dance to assisting him with entertaining foreign dignitaries.
The King and I (directed by Bartlett Sher) was absolutely amazing and is suitable for all ages. The drama was serious, the story is suitable, and Jose Llana did an absolutely stellar job as the King, providing laughter, sadness, anger, comedy, and every other emotion across the spectrum.
I give The King and I a 9.5 out of 10. It’s a wonderful story with a colorful backdrop and life lessons to boot. The performance was close to three hours so for those who make the 7:30 p.m. showing, be forewarned. It’s not boring by any means but I did see quite a few ‘seniors’ that couldn’t hang during the premiere. Also a treat, college students can take advantage of the Student Rush special where with a college ID you can buy up to two tickets at $30 per ticket. Just show up to The Fox Theatre two hours prior to your chosen performance from September 26 – October 1.
What a way to kickoff the 2017/18 season!
*Photos by Matt Murphy