THE KING AND I
by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Curve To 15 January 2011.
Runs 3hr One interval
Review: Ian Spiby 8 December.
Another superb Curve production.
This revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic gives us everything we would expect from a Christmas musical production: an exotic location, a heart-warming story, and while not exactly a traditional happy ending, one that provides us with hope and optimism for the future. So you could say that director Paul Kerryson has provided precisely what we need in these belt-tightening times. And together with his choreographer David Needham and team of designers, he does it very well.
With a clever use of sliding screens, silhouettes, projections, and large moveable props together with two enormous gold Buddhas which remain on stage for the whole play, we are given a series of ingenious, striking scenes which in other circumstances might have cost a fortune to mount and dozens of stagehands to move.
The choreography is of a consistently high standard culminating in an outstanding re-creation of the original ballet “Small House of Uncle Thomas” which comes near the climax of the play.
In terms of performance, Anna (Janie Dee) is the lynchpin around which the rest revolve and she brings to the role a humour and subtlety as well as a feisty energy which prevents her character from lapsing into sentimentality. The King (Chook Sibtain) is happiest in the flirting scenes with Anna and the “Shall We Dance” number fairly crackles with sexual tension. Casting is variable for the other parts but the voices of Lady Thiang (Maya Sapone) and Lun Tha (Adrain Li Donni) stand out. And of the small roles, Gary Wood who doubles Prince Chulalongkorn with King Simon of Legree in the ballet, is noticeable for, among other things, his dignity and command of the stage.
Three teams of community actors play the King’s children and the Blue Team on the night I saw them had an absolute professionalism which enabled choreographer David Needham to produce one of the highlights of the evening in the “Getting to Know You” sequence.
I was not so happy with the music. For reasons that are not specified, Robert Russell Bennett’s original orchestrations have been replaced by Musical Director Julian Kelly’s new arrangement which reduces the band to nine, cutting out completely all strings except a double bass. This provides the sound we have become used to in a modern musical but clashes with that required for one written nearly sixty years ago. It was most noticeable in the March of the Siamese Children where Bennett’s oriental orchestral colouring went for nothing. There were also problems with balance, excessive use of microphones and sluggish tempos in some of the slower numbers.
Captain Orton: Michael Kenneth Stewart.
Anna: Janie Dee.
Louis: Matthew Russell/ Kier Barradel/Daniel Cornish.
Kralahome: Nicholas Goh.
Interpreter: Simon Archer.
Palace Attendants: Rowan Lewis Mitchell, Kristopher Mitchell, Craig Turbeyfield.
The King: Chook Sibtain.
Lun Tha: Adrain Li Donni.
Tup-Tim: Claire-Marie Hall.
Lady Thiang: Maya Sapone.
King’s Wives: Lisa Dent, Alison Guill, Charlotte Humphrey, Sayaka Ichikawa, Makoto Iso, Aiko Kato, Stefanie Mourant, Samantha Tan.
Prince Chulalongkorn: Gary Wood.
Sir Edward Ramsay: James Thorne.
King’s Children: Young people from the local community.
Uncle Thomas: Craig Turbeyfield.
Little Eva: Makoto Iso.
Little Topsy: Samantha Tan.
Eliza: Aiko Kato.
King Simon of Legree: Gary Wood.
Guards: Simon Archer, Kristopher Mitchell, Rowan Lewis Mitchell, Dogs: Lisa Dent, Charlotte Humphrey, Stefanie Mourant, Angel: Sayaka Ichikawa.
Director: Paul Kerryson.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Ben Harrison.
Musical Director: Julian Kelly.
Video: Dick Straker.
Choreographer: David Needham.
Puppets: Sue Pyecroft.
Dance Captain: Lisa Dent.