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this play is a must see for any musical fan, Stefanie Powers as Mrs Anna lights up the stage - Advantages: Stefanie Powers as Mrs Anna, Ronobir lahiri as the King, fabulous sets and costumes - Disadvantages: accents, on occasion hard to understand
Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you Getting to like you, Getting to hope you like me. ~*~ The Background ~*~ It was more than 5 decades ago that the original Broadway production of The King And I opened. It was so successful that 20th Century Fox decided to make a film version a few years later featuring some of the original stage stars, including Yul Brynner. Brynner then went on to tour with the show and then settle for long stints in the West End, and on Broadway again, and became widely known as the original and best King. The production currently in Manchester has been all over the world already, and started in Australia in 1996. Between the original, film and current productions, the King and I has been awarded 9 Tony Awards and 4 Academy Awards, not to mention numerous lower profile accolades. More recently, there has been a further film adaptation, Anna And The King. ~*~ The Story ~*~ The story starts with Anna, an English widow arriving in Bangkok with her son. She has been employed by The King of Siam to teach English to his (many) wives and children. She is also supposed to introduce Western values and ideas to her pupils, but this causes some problems with the out dated customs of her new home. Despite some initial problems with her employer, the children convince her to stay on and work with them. The story then takes various twists and turns. The King and Anna’s relationship is a turbulent one until the end, but part way through, their underlying feelings start to show as sparks begin to fly. The path of true love never runs smoothly, however, and things soon begin to go wrong. After some of his slaves escape, Anna confronts the King about why he has them in the 1st place. She convinces him of the barbaricness of the situation, but although he realizes she is right, he knows that by backing down, his reign will be over. Anna, knowing that she has humiliated the King an
d that deep down his feelings probably won’t change anyway, packs up and gets ready to flee Siam. Just as she is about to leave she gets word that the King is unwell and goes to his bedside for a final goodbye. ~*~ The Touring Production ~*~ The King and I is currently on a national tour. It’s been to Edinburgh, and after Manchester will head off to Southampton, Plymouth, Bristol, Oxford and Liverpool, before ending up in Birmingham over Christmas. For exact dates, and to but tickets, have a look at www.kingandi.co.uk. This was the first musical I’ve seen at the Opera House, having only been to pantomimes with 30 screaming kids in tow before. The venue is nice and grand, but tacky around the edges as so many theatres in the UK are these days. The stage in particular is as tatty as Blackpool Opera House’s, which not only looks run down, but is also hard to dance on :-( The show last night had everything a musical should have. Their colour scheme was a very royal red and gold, and it wasn’t just the costumes but also the sets which glittered and sparkled all night. If Miss Saigon was sponsored by Ikea, then The King and I is funded by a cardboard factory – although the elephants protruding from the wings for most of the show were bright and tall, they looked a little flimsy too, and I know that if I’d been on stage last night, they wouldn’t have been standing by the end with my habit of, erm, running into scenery and props…. There were quite a few set changes, from the original ship to the palace, class room and bedrooms, but these were swift and well-rehearsed. The singers were all good, but Princess Tuptin in particular had a fantastic voice which made even the sweet wrapper rustlers behind us shut up and listen. Although the King had 77 children by the end of the show, we only saw 7 of these – the ones whose mothers were deemed good enough for English les
sons from Mrs. Anna. The little kids they used were great performers, even though the youngest looked only to be about 3 or 4 years old. In the part where they are presented to Anna, each got their 5 minutes of fame as they got to show off their character’s character to the audience, and each was rewarded with applause and “aww”s and laughs. My favourite part had to be The Small Town of Uncle Thomas, the play put on by the wives for the visiting dignitaries. I’m not sure why, but I think a mixture of wonderful dancing, quick, timed chanting and bold but effective make up made this one the number that stole the show for me. It was incredibly well choreographed and thought out, and the time they had obviously put in has paid off. The songs are good throughout, but in a way these and the story have been done to death because of the film – all the good numbers such as “Getting To Know You” are widely known, and those which are not, aren’t for a reason. ~*~ Cast ~*~ STEFANIE POWERS is perfect as ANNA. Powers has been in more than 25 films, and tons of shows, as well as having had numerous TV roles. In the UK she is probably best known for her role in Hart to Hart. There are not that many leads for more mature women in musicals these days, so I imagine she will be with this production capacity for some time. Her English accent is a bit fake, but is a real contrast with the broken English of the King and his family. RONOBIR LAHIRI plays THE KING and does so well. American by birth, and a Yale graduate, Lahiri made his theatrical debut in the King and I. He has had bit parts in a number of films, including You’ve got Mail and Stuart Little 2, and has also won awards for his musical scores. In terms of the production, he looks the part and acts the part – he has great comic timing, perfect broken English and really becomes the King. MADHAY SHARMA is the ev
il KRALAHOME and is wonderful in evoking feelings of hatred from the audience. He’s not that attractive and certainly not that nice, but he can definitely sing. Sharma’s entry in the program is the most detailed by far – he really has done it all: Shakespeare tours, Broadway shows, talking books, films such as East is East and Entrapment, and TV programs such as Holby City and, erm, the Basil Brush Show. AURA DEVA is TUPTIM, the princess given as a present by the King of Burma (wasn’t that a petrol station chain?). Deva (god name) is thin and gorgeous, especially in the jeweled clothes in which she is dressed, but most importantly she can act and sing incredibly well. She is mainly a theatre performer, and toured with The King and I and Miss Saigon in Germany (performing in German) before moving to the UK to get married. ~*~ What The Press Say ~*~ "A production fit for a King." - The Express "The sheer sense of spectacle and glamour is irresistible." - The Sunday Times "Lavishly sumptuous." - The Times "The palace sets are spectacular, the costumes dazzling and the songs a knockout too… they don't write them like that anymore." - Daily Mirror ~*~ Useful / Strange Facts ~*~ The show is performed in 2 halves, with a 15 minute interval in between. The whole performance took a little less than 3 hours, and included 16 numbers, an overture and two finales (nothing like being greedy). In Manchester the show is on 6 evenings a week, plus two matinee performances. Tickets range from £6 for student standby seats available on the day of performance, to £28 for front of the circle seats. Be warned though that they have ridiculous booking fees – our tickets were £23 each, but for the pair we ended up paying about £52 when you added on the individual booking fees, and then the extra one they add p
er purchase. On the plus side, you don’t have to pay more for using a credit card, but then I suppose the negative is that you don’t save money by using Switch. There’s quite a bit of merchandise on sale in the foyer, from £1 badges to £15 + t-shirts. There are 2 sizes of program - £2.50 for A5, and £5 for the much larger souvenir brochure. Under the crew section in the program, they list a wigs supervisor, a head of wigs, a deputy head of wigs and a wigs assistant. Which reinforced my suspicions that the King isn’t really bald. If he is he had dodgy tidemarks on his head, but I do believe it was just the rim of his plastic cap. If you go and see it, hire the Opera glasses for 50p (or take posh ones belonging to your parents like me) and have a look for yourself. ~*~ The Verdict ~*~ There’s no doubt about it, this performance is spectacular. If I had to choose, I’d say that Miss Saigon was better, but only because I liked the storyline and songs there more. Using the plot and music that come with the show, I don’t think they could have done a better performance last night. I won’t be in a rush to see this show again now I’ve been, but it was a great night with a great cast and great performances. If The King and I is your favourite show of all time, I’d fully recommend it, and if you’re just after a night at the theatre, you could do a lot worse. Oh and if you see the show, you’ll understand the title, etc, etc.
I have never seen the film of this show nor had I ever wanted to see it and I only chose to see this show as 'The Beautiful Game' seemed a little depressing for my Christmas treat - the choice had been made and 'The King and I' won. I went and saw this show last Christmas with the origional cast. It starred Elaine Paige as Anna Leonowens and Paul Nakauchi as the King of Siam. Both of these were excellent, although there wasn't really a song that allowed Elaine to let rip with her voice and so didn't really do her justice, but here perfomance was excellent. The new leads should be just as good. I know nothing about the new king - thought I'd best be honest rather than pretend to make it up! But I think Josie Lawrence would make a fine Anna. If her performances on the TV show 'Whose Line is it Anyway?' are anything to go by, her singing and acting talents should do her proud in this production. The story is a simple love story between Anna, who acts as nanny for the king's numerous children and the King himself. There is also a secondary love story and comment on Siam culture between Tuptim and Lun Tha who carry out their affair in secret before being caught and running away after much heartache and more sticky situations than an episode of Neighbours! The relationship between Anna and the King is pivotal to the story as she challenges and questions his behaviour as King and is, in places, fraught with tension and at other times, lightened by laughter. There is a saying that goes along the lines of 'never work with children or animals' and with a cast of 10 royal children ranging in ages you could be perfectly within your rights to expect a disaster. But don't panic, the kids I saw were fantastic - well acted and sung and, surprisingly, not at all annoying. The set is magnificent, although doesn't really take advantage of the Palladium's immense stage. T
he costumes are dazzling and keep very much in vain with the whole Eastern tradition - which is good really seeing as the show is set in Siam! In fact, a lot of the material to make some of the costumes came direct from Bangkok itself! The best bit of the whole show, however, takes up the majority of the second half. This is 'The Small House of Uncle Thomas' which is a show within the show put on by the King to entertain guests. This portion of the show is worth the ticket price alone. It calls strongly on different aspects of Oriental theatre and dance and is simply mind-blowing. I wanted to see a repeat performance of this section again! The costume and staging of this 'show-ette' is stunning and frequently made my jaw hit the floor! Overall, this was a very pleasing piece of nostalgic theatre performed by a great cast wearing great costumes and singing catchy songs that you didn't realise you knew. The show is closing at the Palladium on the 5th January to make way for the new production of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' so make sure you catch it before it closes. It will be going on a nationwide tour though so don't panic if you can't get to London. It may well be coming to a venue near you. I don't have details of the tour to give you at the moment - sorry about that! Catch it - now! *********TOUR DETAILS************ The London Palladium Production of 'The King and I' is going on tour, starting in Manchester 21st May - 29th June at the Opera House on Quay Street. Go and see it!
I had been looking forward to seeing this musical for some time. Of course we all know the film with Yul Brynner’s excellent performance as the King of Siam. Of course however, it is Elaine Paige that was the real star of this show. There was an excellent set and great costumes. I saw the show on 27th of December, a few days after Christmas, so all of the actors were in high spirits and it was a great show. All of the children involved in the show gave fantastic performances, and sang very well. I very much enjoyed Paul Nakauchi’s performance as King, and thought that even though he was not quite as stern in the role as Brynner, that he put up a very decent performance. I also thought that Aura Deva and Sean Ghazi who played Tuptim and Lun Tha, the secret lovers were both outstanding and there performance of the song “We Kiss in A Shadow” was equally impressive. Paige also put forward an impressive performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed. All in all, this a great new musical which everybody should see, with no bad points. I think that it should not be compared to the film, and that one cannot expect a set design to be as good in a stage production as a movie, but the standard of acting was similar to that in the film, apart from the fact that the actors new they were performing to a live audience (which induces light slap-stick and so forth for the enjoyment of the crowd).
The king & I has recently been re-staged at the Palladium & I was lucky enough to aquire tickets to the last preview the night before opening. The sets were spectacular & the cast fantastic with the exception of the King. Elaine Paige was the reason for me going to se the show, as I have seen her in Cats & Evita albeit some time ago & appreciating her voice I was greatly looking forward to this performance, I was not dissapointed. The children were brilliant & played their parts well. My disappointment was only in the shape of Jason Lee, I know he tried but just didn't come across, his voice & charater just isn't strong enough! Having seen this production on it's last run in London starring Virginia McKenna & Yul Brynner as the King this latest production pales into insignificance. Once you've seen the best nothing else compares. Elaine Paige & Yul Brynner, now there is a thought,what a partnership that would have been