The King's Theatre, Glasgow
16 May 2023
One of the most beloved musicals of all time, The King and I, was revived for the stage by the Lincoln Centre Theatre on Broadway in 2015 and went on to win four Tony Awards that year, including for Best Revival of a Musical.
The Lincoln Centre's acclaimed production then toured the UK in 2019 / 2020, and I was lucky enough to catch it in early 2020 just before the Covid pandemic cut the tour short. It's a lavish, rework of the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and is a gorgeous feast for the eyes, ears and soul.
This new tour of the UK kicked off in January 2023 and features a world-class cast of West End and Broadway talent.
When I first saw the show in 2020, Annalene Beechey played Mrs Anna (Anna Leonowens) and I'm delighted she returns to front the latest show in Glasgow. Annalene is entirely perfect as the widowed school teacher who travels to Bangkok to tutor the (very many!) children of the King of Siam (now Thailand). Anna is so delightful, funny, resilient; She stands up to the King when no-one else will. This is girl power in action in the 1860s!
The King is masterfully played by Broadway star Darren Lee. His comic-timing is spot on and his talent is evident at every turn, etc etc. You won't see a better duo play Anna and The King. They have great chemistry, super voices, and the ability to convey their thoughts through facial expressions alone - just incredible talents. I feel privileged to have witnessed this masterclass. Outstanding.
Beechey and Lee are supported by a large, accomplished cast who play The King's many wives, children and servants. Cezarah Bonner who plays Lady Thiang, The King's head wife (head wife!) is another stand-out performer. Elegance personified, she is quietly magnificent in this role. What a complex character too - I'd love to hear her story!
Kok-Hwa Lie is Kralahome, The King's imposing Prime Minister. It was Lie I saw play the King in the 2020 production and he was splendid then and now as The King's enforcer. I have a soft spot for Lie - he will always be my first King of Siam.
The production relies on a number of children in key roles and they are incredible! Where did they find these little shining-stars?! There was not a single mis-step or fluffed line and some them look very young indeed. Adorable.
Casting have really knocked it out of the park for this production.
The ensemble adult cast are not only skilled actors and singers, but sensational dancers too. There are a number of stunningly choreographed traditional dances throughout the show, and a full 15 minute Siamese ballet of Uncle Tom's Cabin (The Small House of Uncle Thomas).
This is the most lavish, hypnotic 'play within a play' I've ever seen. The story-telling, costumes and dance skills of the cast come together to deliver something really special. The King and Kralahome may not have been impressed (they do not take kindly to the depiction of slavery and of the murder of 'a king' within the narrative) but I loved it. A truly wonderful spectacle.
The costumes by Catherine Zuber are beautiful in every scene of The King and I, but they are showcased in their glittering, opulent best in the ballet. The costumes and the sheer number of them must cost a fortune, but it is absolutely worth it. From an audience perspective, it's worth going to see this show solely to marvel at their intricate beauty.
The King and I hails from the golden age of American musical theatre, and the Rodger's and Hammerstein score is one of their most popular and enduring. With instantly recognisable songs such as 'Whistle a Happy Tune' and 'Shall We Dance', the score is of course in no way considered modern or revolutionary today (a la Hamilton, for example), but it isn't archaic either.
From the overture to 'The march of the Siamese children', and through the finale, the fabulous live orchestra under Musical Director Christopher Mundy remind us why Rodger's and Hammerstein were so successful and remain influential. It'd be easy to close your eyes and just listen to the beautiful score played by talented musicians. But this is just one of many outstanding aspects that come together to make this production of The King and I a 'must see' show.
Playing Glasgow King's Theatre until Saturday 20th May, and then on tour across the UK and Dublin through March 2024, don't miss this opportunity to see one of the most popular musicals and musical films of all time, performed live, by a world-class cast.
📸 Production photos: Pamela Raith Photography
🎟️Glasgow Information and tickets:
🎟️ Tour dates and tickets: https://kingandimusical.co.uk/uk-tour-dates/
🌟 A review of The King and I musical, UK tour, at Glasgow King's Theatre, May 2023 🌟
Disclaimer: *I was invited to review this show by ATG Glasgow. I received a comp ticket in exchange for my Instagram content and blog review. Whether I am gifted a ticket or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings!
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