I’m going to hold my hands up and say that until recently I had never seen The King And I, despite it being on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most popular musicals. It’s a film that my mum absolutely adores, but I’d just never managed to catch it in full. Thanks to London Box Office I was able to catch the Tony Award winning transfer from the Lincoln Center at the London Palladium.
19th Century Siam offers the lush backdrop for Anna’s experience as a teacher for the King of Siam’s children as part of his aim to modernise the country. The extravagant scenery and costumes from the recent production in the states, alongside the all-star cast, seems right at home on the London stage (which received its last glimpse at the show 18 years ago).
The plot is problematic in the 21st century, however, it is almost too easy to forget this during some of the more memorable numbers that you are happy to sing along with (Getting To Know You is still such a classic, even 60 years down the line). As uncomfortable as some of the moments of Western Imperilisation are, The King And I has received a beautiful revival at the the London Palladium this summer, with stars of stage and screen Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe taking on the lead roles for a second time.
Kelli O’Hara is truly made for the stage, and her West End debut could not have come soon enough. Her voice is divine, and every single syllable is believable. Ken Watanabe plays an authoritarian King, rather than the joke of the show. Whilst his singing isn’t the strongest, his portrayal of the king is something of real power.
Bartlett Sher’s direction of the classic brings a modern twist on the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s, to a point where he offers clarity to the production. There is nothing hidden. It’s a stunning production, and my first experience of The King And I was a pretty special one. Definitely one to catch before it closes on the 29th September.