I have seen a few big productions on the big stage in Toronto but very few. The last ‘real’ musical I saw was Cats decades ago. So when I was given tickets to see The King & I was more than happy to accept them, mainly because this a piece that plays a strong role in my childhood – it was one of my mother’s favourites. She had the movie soundtrack & we would sing along to some tracks – Shall We Dance. Her other fave soundtrack was The Student Prince – Drink Drink Drink.
I loved that lp cover with Deborah Kerr in the amazing gold dress – I always wondered how did she get that – and beside her was Yul Brenner as the King – majestic, macho & Asian. I’ve seen the movie a few times & suspect that my attraction to Asian men started here. The cd soundtrack now includes the The Small House of Uncle Tom ballet sequence which I remembered from the film.
So you have a context of what I brought with me when I saw the stage production at the Princess of Wales. I was not ready for the power all of these songs had over me. Richard Rodgers music is emotionally compelling & romantic in My Lord & Master, I Have Dreamed. I could name check every song mind you. A Puzzlement with its shifting rhythms is more musically complex that I realized. The lyrics for most of the songs are unabashedly romantic.
The performances were solid. The singing itself was good as well. Jose Llana as the King was handsome but a bit young, to me, & Elena Saddow as Anna seemed more of mother figure than a possible next wife. Their scenes together was more fun than simmering.
The text was more political than I recalled. Her feminism was strong without being strident. The role of the arrogant colonizers in Southeast Asia was not overlooked either. The King was considered a barbarian mainly because he was resistant to European’s seeking to exploit his country. The European notion that ‘civilized’ meant conforming to their standards of dress & religion was used to belittle & suppress, not to advance & improve.
The production had a great diverse cast. Were all the Asian performers actually Thais? I can’t say – cast photos were on display not their family trees 🙂 As I said earlier performances were solid but the over-all production lacked energy. Only Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang seemed to fully invested in her character, though Jose Llana had some fine moments of puzzlement. Finally the Small House of Uncle Tom was given an excellent interpretation.
My reviews of:
Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f
Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K