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November 15, 2011 > Theatre Review: The King and I

Theatre Review: The King and I

Classic in all the right ways

By Janet Grant

Rodger's and Hammerstein's timeless classic, "The King and I" returned to the Douglas Morrisson stage Friday night in a dazzling new production of one of Broadway's most enduring musical legends. The show opened the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in 1979 and presently is in its fourth revival. Judging by the nearly sold-out house, this crowd favorite is well on its way to another deservingly successful run.

"The King and I" has remained one of the most requested musicals by DMT audiences? and to no surprise. This is a richly textured drama woven with romance and culture clash, set in an exotic local and infused with some of the most glorious and unforgettable music ever written for the musical stage.

This tale of a British governess brought into the court of the Siam in the 1860s to tutor the King's many children starts out simple enough. But while keeping a firm grip on their traditions and values, Anna and the King grow to understand and, eventually, respect one another in a unique love story set against the background of historical and cultural conflict and change.

DMT's staging of the "King and I," expertly directed by Sue Ellen Nelsen and wonderfully choreographed by Dallis Wright-Morash, immediately sends the audience to that place of happy memories with the first strains of the orchestra led by Musical Director, Marianna Wolff.

The much-loved songs and sweeping melodies from the show include: "The March of the Siamese Children," "Shall We Dance," "Hello Young Lovers," and the unforgettable "Getting to Know You." And with "I Whistle a Happy Tune," opening the first scene, I could barely keep from tapping my toes.

First and foremost, the children of the court are adorable and intensely focused in their roles. Andrew Creekbaum as Anna's son Louis, and Tee Lew as Prince Chulalongkorn, particularly meshed as their initial distrust turns into a budding friendship.

The performances of Anna Cook as Anna Leonowens, and TK Armstrong as the King, are remarkable, with a genuine and believable chemistry between the two actors.

The beautiful Ms. Cook brings both warmth and sensitivity to the role of Anna along with just the right amount of assertiveness and spunk. Her gorgeous and powerful voice sends the wonderful hit tunes she sings soaring through the theater.

Mr. Armstrong plays the King with immense charm and energy. His natural performance style exudes power and humor. And his fine baritone voice complements his acting with finess.

Equally effective is the chemistry between the exquisite In Hui Lee as the King's unwilling gift, Tuptim, and Jepoy Ramos as her secret love, Lun Tha. Their blend of incredible voices set the tone for their poignant and ill-fatted romance with two of my favorite songs "We Kiss in a Shadow," and "I Have Dreamed."

All of the actresses playing the wives of the king are wonderfully expressive and charming and Alexis P. Wong gives an exceptional performance as the king's head wife, Lady Thiang. She plays her role with elegance and dignity and her beautiful voice brings great power to the passion and conviction of "Something Wonderful."

Jeffrey Tan as the Kralahome is very effective as the king's trusted advisor. He brings to his role the right amount of haughtiness and sensitivity with his grudging respect for Anna and his unfailing loyalty to the king.

Ben Marafino was also fine in his dual roles as Sir Edward Ramsey and Captain Orton, playing both parts believably.

And of course, in a production full of amazing numbers, "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," still remains the ultimate highlight with its clever play within a play ballet sequence. Performed by the Royal Dancers and Wives, this scene where Tuptim and the court stage a Siamese version of the American Civil War classic novel was amazing and riveting and a pure feast for the senses.

From the colorful set... to the lavish costumes... to the enchanting children... to the last strains of the orchestra... Douglas Morrisson Theatre's production of "The King and I" is a hit not to be missed. Get your tickets quickly before all the shows and all the seats sell out... et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

The King and I
Friday, Nov 11 - Dec 4
8 p.m. (Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.)
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22331 N. 3rd Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777

Adults: $28
Seniors: $25
Students/juniors: $20
Box Office: Tuesday - Friday, 12:30-5:30 p.m.

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