Friday September 22nd 2017

“The King and I “

Highly Recommended **** I guess I should preface my review by saying that I LOVE “The King and I”! It has been one of my very favorites since I was involved with the Music Theatre of Highland Park’s summer production in 1960 featuring Patrice Munsel as Anna and Victor Jory as the King. That production was an “in-the-round” tent production with very little in the way of scenery and while the costumes were bright, they were in no way what one sees in a Broadway production. Last year, the Civic Opera did a production and while it was stunning and very well sung, being an opera house, the sound and the “theatrical part” of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” was not as solid as I saw tonight as Broadway In Chicago presented the Lincoln Center Theater production at The Oriental Theatre. ( How perfect is that?).

As someone who has seen a version of this beloved show almost on an annual basis ( I also played the King in a production in Buffalo Grove in the last century), I know most of the music; “Getting To Know You”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Shall We Dance”, “Something Wonderful”, “We Kiss In The Shadow” and many more and still enjoy hearing the score with a full orchestra. The Musical is based on the novel “Anna and The King of Siam” written by Margaret Landon, which tells the story of the unconventional relationship that developed between the King of Siam and an English woman, Anna Leonowens who was brought to Siam to change the culture of said country. I know that some of what takes place in this book (Oscar Hammerstein II) follows actual facts of the progression that takes place in the country which is now Thailand. I know that the king , during the 1860’s did have a son named Prince Chulalongkorn (played tonight by Marcus Shane, who despite appearing to be older than his years, was very “regal”), who upon taking over the realm made some very notable changes (as per the play ending).

The cast of this production is one of strong vocal abilities. They are of course not like last year’s Lyric production, but are more “musical theater” and that, for most audiences , is what this show needs to be. Directed by Bartlett Sher, this production runs smoothly and for the most part is identical to previous Broadway road shows. There were a few changes in the set (I loved the boat in the opener) designed by Michael Yeargan, and the lighting (Donald Holder) and sound (Scott Lehrer) as well as the costumes (Catherine Zuber) truly make this show a “vision to behold”. The choreography by Christopher Gattelli truly shines when we witness “the Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet in the second act. This number is worth the ticket price and well danced and played by the ensemble members who participate in this number.

Anna’s son, Louis, is played by the adorable Graham Montgomery ,and Anna by the incredible Laura Michelle Kelly (I could not help falling in love with her) . The King (deftly handled by Jose Llana), while a great character, did not seem to have the chemistry that this man should have. Yes, he is different and from a different world, where he can have as many wives and children as he wants, but he MUST be caught in the web of caring for her and we must see that, just as we should see her having feelings for  him. I got it from her, from him, not so—until the final scene ( a bit too late for me). The sub-story of the slave Tuptim (Manna Nichols does a superb job) and her forbidden lover , Lun Tha (Kavin Panmeechhao has a powerhouse of a voice and range) is well presented and we find ourselves pulling for them to find their lives together. Two other major roles in this show are the “prime Minister”, the Kralahome (played to perfection by Brian Rivera) and the King’s Number 1 wife, Lady Thiang ( wonderful performance by Joan Almedilla).

This is a huge ensemble because of the many children, but I do want to mention those that were a part of  “The Small House” number: Lamae Capras (Eliza), Amaya Braganzu (Uncle Thomas), Nobutaka Mochimimaru (Angel and George), Yuki Ozeki (Topsy), Rommell Pierre O’Choa (Simon of Lagree), Michiko Takemasa (Little Eva), Daniel J. Edwards, Darren Lee and Sam Simahk (as the propmen), Marie Gutierrez, Mindy Lai and Stephanie Lo (as the dogs), Andrew Cheng, Michael Lomeka and Jeffrey Watson (as the guards) and Michelle Liu Coughlin, Q Lim and Nicole Ferguson (as the Royal Singers). Great number- I loved it!

The orchestra under the direction of Gerald Steichen is amazing. Three of them travel with the show and then they pick-up  13 local musicians and of course, they do use a synthesizer to augment the sound. The first act is an hour and twenty-five minutes and then a 20 minute intermission and another one-hour and five minutes, so you can count on a total time of Two-Hours-Forty-Minutes. “The King and I ” will continue at the Oriental Theatre located at 24 West Randolph Street thru July 2nd with performances as follows:

Sat, Jun 17: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jun 18: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Tue, Jun 20: 7:30pm
Wed, Jun 21: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Jun 22: 7:30pm
Fri, Jun 23: 7:30pm
Sat, Jun 24: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jun 25: 2:00pm
Tue, Jun 27: 7:30pm
Wed, Jun 28: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Jun 29: 7:30pm
Fri, Jun 30: 7:30pm
Sat, Jul 1: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jul 2: 2:00pm
Wed, Jul 5: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Jul 6: 7:30pm
Fri, Jul 7: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sat, Jul 8: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jul 9: 2:00pm

Tickets range in price from $24-$90 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago Box offices

By calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-200 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

or all Ticketmaster outlets.

 

There is valet parking available at Petterino’s on Dearborn and Randolph, but public transportation is the best

 

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The King & I”

 

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