Friday August 18th 2017

“The King and I “

Highly Recommended  We have all heard the saying “Good things come in small packages” and I for one have seen this in one of our local theaters- Porchlight Music theater , for many years. Well, Walter, you have done it again!  The last productionfor L.Walter Stearns as Artistic Director, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, “The King  And I”, a large scale show for the most part has been scaled down to fit the smaller venue at State 773 ( formerly The Theatre Building) and under Stearns careful direction makes for an enjoyable experience for  young and old. This is a very solid production with a small cast, but a very talented one, led by the vibrant portrayal of The King by Wayne Hu, who brings his own interpretation to the role rather than doing an impersonation of Yul Brynner- Bravo for doing what an actor should do- take on the character as your own. The role of Anna, the English teacher who has been brought to Siam to civilize this country is played by Brianna Borger. Ms. Borger has all the qualities that one would hope for in her portrayal and more. Her stage presence is majestic and her voice is sensational. This is a special version of this masterpiece in that it is done without an orchestra- just two pianos, one on each side of the higher platform used as part of the set. The two piano version was found many years after the play was first produced and in all my years of seeing this play, this is my first glance at this unique version, which depicts the two worlds coming together and it is perfect for a smaller theater. The twin pianos are handled with sheer genius by Musical Director Eugene Dizon and Allison Hendrix ( who both get an opportunity to interact with the actors- a rare treat). The well known music from this classic, “Getting To Know You”,, “I Whistle A Happy Tune”, “I Have Dreamed”,”We Kiss In A Shadow”, “Something Wonderful” ,”Shall We Dance” and of course the famous ” March of The Siamese Children” all take on a much more intimate feeling in this production. Add to that all the other songs and the “Small House Of Uncle Thomas” ( ballet- brilliantly choreographed by Brenda Didier) and one can see just how stunningly well done this production is!

While the two leads are powerful, it takes a full ensemble to make this show work and Stearns has picked winners from top to bottom. Anna’s son Louis played by Benjamin Parkhill is adorable ( it would help if he was miked) and the Kings son Prince Chululongkorn ( a delightful job by Richard Nava), Lun Tha, the secret lover of Tuptim is well done by Erik Kaiko, Tuptim is handled to perfection by Jillian Anne Jocson who does a splendid interpretation onf the Ballet and Lady Thiang, the King’s head wife is divinely played by Kate Garassino. These are your main characters, but there are also solid jobs by Sean Thomas as Captain Orton and Sir Edward Ramsey and Karmann Bajuyo as the Kralahome/Prime Minster and then we have the wives: Kaori Aoshima,Christin Boulette,Kara Chandler, Joyce Hshieh,Czerina Salud and Shannon Mulvey ( who also takes on the lead of Eliza in the ballet). The interpreter,Chip Payos takes on all the other spots where a male is needed, it appears to round out the adult ensemble.

Since this is “The King And I”, the children are of great importance as that is why Anna has come to Siam in the first place. Unlike most productions where there are scads of kids on the stage, Stearns has opted to use six children, but as I said earlier, “good things come in small packages” and these six make it happen; Luke Emano,Lindsey Pearlman,Tatum Pearlman,Sadie Mills,Dylan M. Lainez and Lydia Hurrelbrink- great job kids! Having only six children and The Prince for the March made Didier become very creative and as always, she was up to the task.The set (Ian Zywica), very simple allowed the focus to be on the story and the characters, Bill More’s costumes are wonderful and very colorful, Mac Vaughey did an admirable job with the lighting effects ( the Ballet was smashing) and the stage manager (Jenn A. Kincaid) did a great job of making sure all the small props were in place and that no cue was ever missed.

Many theater goers, over the years, get used to seeing specific productions done in a specific way- that which they have viewed and enjoyed many times. This production is not as you are used to, but it  glimmers and shines making an enjoyable 2 1/2 hours of wonderful musical theater in a very intimate space that brings you much closer to the action. The story that  shows the two worlds, that of England and that of Siam, come to an understanding that change is for the betterment of both is also a love story of not just this man and woman, but of family . It is a beautiful story of change, understanding, respect and love brought to us in  unique fashion by the wonderful Porchlight Music Theatre Company, and you can grab your opportunity to experience this production by calling the box office at 773-327-5252 or visiting www.stage773.com.

The production will continue at State 773 through June 5th with performances as follows:

Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $38 and yes, this is “family theater” so there are discounts for seniors and students.

The theater is located at 1225 West Belmont with street parking available ( some metered, some not) and valet parking as well as free parking at Cooper’s restaurant directly across the street where good valued dining is available before or after the show- 10% discount to patrons. 

To see what else Porchlight has in store for the rest of the season, visit www.porchlighttheatre.com 

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