The King and I at the Princess of Wales

I attended the matinee performance on July 14th of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I at the Princess of Wales.

The production starred Jose Llana (The King of Siam), Elena Shaddow (Anna Leonowens), Joan Almedilla (Lady Thiang), Brian Rivera (Kralahome), Q Lim (Tuptim), Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha), Charlie Oh (Prince Chulalongkorn), and Ryan Stout (Louis Leonowens).

The production is directed by Bartlett Sher, with sets by Michael Yeargan.

The sets are relatively simple, but are easily changed to provide the appearance in being in different parts of the Palace, and opens with a small ship that actually moves onto the stage providing a visual appearance of the arrival of Anna Leonowens and her son, Louis.

The production is well acted overall.  Mr. Llana provides a very moving King.  He is torn between tradition and the modern world that is invading Siam and the rest of the world.  His solo (‘A Puzzlement’) was moving and showed the conflict the King was dealing with.  And he was very hurt towards the end of the performance when Miss Anna calls him a barbarian for wanting to whip Tuptim – his world has changed and there is no going back to the old ways of doing things.  On a side note – when Miss Anna calls the King a barbarian for wanting to whip Tuptim, the audience broke out in applause.

Ms. Shaddow acted very well.  I found her singing to be a bit too soft at the times, but she did a good job overall.

Ms. Almedilla’s “Something Wonderful” was moving – she was certainly in love with the King and was supportive , perhaps more than he was to any one of his wives.  Ms. Lim’s Tuptim is certainly not happy with being a mere political pawn as a present to the King of Siam from the King of Burma.  And she was certainly in love with Lun Tha.

While Mr. Stout is a good actor, his singing was a let down for me.  He seemed uncomfortable singing Lun Tha’s two songs, seeming to wobble a number of his lines.  Perhaps some more experience singing the role may help.

Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon – but the highlight was certainly Mr. Llana’s portrayal of the King.  If Rodger and Hammerstein’s songs are not enough to make you attend a performance, Mr. Llana’s performance should be – especially as he made the role his own (who does not think of Yul Brynner when discussing The King and I?)

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