The King & I – a truly royal performance

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The King and I is a multi-award-winning Roger’s and Hammerstein musical based on Margaret Landon's novel Anna and the King of Siam (1944), which is derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the 1860s and it plays at Milton Keynes Theatre this week.

It premiered in 1951 with Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, Brynner’s rendition of The King turning it into an overnight success that won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actress and Best Featured Actor). Later in 1956 it was made into a film, this time starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr and was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 5, including Best Actor for Brynner.

After a successful Broadway run, the musical sold out at London Palladium. It resulted in the biggest global live event cinema release of 2018 and broke records during its UK and international tour.

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Directed by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher (known for his work on South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and To Kill a Mockingbird). The show features a world-class cast of talented performers and a full-scale orchestra, including, seasoned musical theatre star Annalene Beechey (The King and I UK & International Tour / Marguerite / Wicked / Phantom of the Opera) who plays Anna Leonowens and Darren Lee - Broadway star and film actor (Hackers / Sisters / Chicago / Guys and Dolls) who plays the title role of The King of Siam.

Anna and the KingAnna and the King
Anna and the King

Joining themis Dean John-Wilson (London Palladium production of The King and I / Aladdin) as Lun Tha, Marienella Phillips (Henry V / Carmen) as Tuptim, alongside Cezarah Bonner who returns as Lady Thiang, the King’s head wife, Kok-Hwa Lie (2020 UK Tour of The King And I / Rent) as Kralahome, Caleb Lagayan (Les Misérables) as Prince Chulalongkorn, Sam Jenkins-Shaw (The Night Watch / Jane Eyre) - Captain Orton/Sir Edward

I have to admit that "The King and I" is one of my favourite musicals. I've watched the movie and the series many times with my mom, and I even got to see the musical revival in the 80s, which starred the incredible Yul Brynner, so it was going to be a tough act to follow.

The musical depicts Anna's journey as a schoolteacher tasked with modernizing the King's imperialist world. Their unconventional and turbulent relationship being filled with unspoken longing.

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I was thrilled as the orchestra began the show with the overture, teasing the audience with snippets of the beloved songs to come: ‘Whistle a Happy Tune’, ‘Getting to Know You’, and ‘Shall We Dance’.

This show felt like it had come directly out of the West End with an exceptionally high standard. The palace setting was opulent and the moving set pieces and costumes were stunning. The cast was stupendous, with impeccable acting and commanding performances and songs, particularly from Anna and Tuptim, which were just stunning. The precision and beauty of the movement and dance by the entire cast were remarkable and the children were completely professional and delightful at the same time.

This is a timeless romance from the golden age of musicals, with one of the greatest scores ever composed, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The shows plays until Saturday 11th November, so if you’d like to see it contact the MK Theatre Box Office

Shahnaz (Shiny) Hussain – Arts Reviewer.

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