The all-time classic musical The King and I, winner of four Tony Awards, lives up to the billing and more.
The first half is gently paced, but like the relationship between Anna and the King, grows on you slowly.
West End stars Annalene Beechey, as British school teacher Anna, sent to teach the King of Siam’s wives and children, and Darren Lee, as the King, are perfectly cast as the employer and employee. Lee is comical as the entitled king, his facial expressions larger than life as he reacts to the British teacher’s strange yet ‘scientific’ ways. Beechey plays Anna with the perfect mix of primness and playfulness.
Eastern and Western cultures learn from and make fun of each other. The costumes are stunning, from silks and satins to sparkling gold headpieces,
The choreography by Christopher Gattelli and Jerome Robbins, is outstanding, with a combination of classical Thai and popular dance moves plus Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music featuring classics such as Shall We Dance, Getting To Know You and Whistle A Happy Tune.
The king’s many children and excellent performances from the entire cast mean you have all the ingredients for a perfect musical. The set transforms from palace to garden with hanging vines that become the backdrop to secret meetings between Tuptim and Lun-Tha.
Each cast member has a brilliant voice however special mention for Tuptim (Marienella Phillips) who shows such passion when singing My Lord and Master. All the singers move through the range of low to high notes seamlessly.
This production is a feast for both the eyes and the soul. It’s beautiful, moving and funny, capturing the lives of royalty from centuries ago in a fun musical spectacular. Fit, indeed for a King. A standing ovation from a packed audience which I suspect will continue throughout its run
The King and I runs from May 30 to June 3 at the Regent Theatre
Photos by Johnan Pearson