Set in the 1860s in Siam, the classic Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I recently hit the stage at DPAC under the direction of Bartlett Sher. The musical, based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam, tells the story of Anna (Laura Michelle Kelly), a widowed woman who has been brought to Siam by The King (Jose Llana) to serve as a schoolteacher to his many wives and children. She has been brought there with the promise that she will receive a house for her service, and when this doesn’t happen, conflict ensues with the king. The conflict continues as their strong personalities clash, and as she tries to educate him on women’s rights and to force him to see her as more than just a lowly servant.
Her story is juxtaposed with that of Tuptim (Manna Nichols), a young girl who has been “given” to the King as a bride but whose heart lies elsewhere. As she fights and sneaks to be with her true love, somewhat with Anna’s help, her story takes dangerous and devastating turns, adding to the intrigue of the show.
And, while the two intertwining stories are certainly fun to watch, it must be said that this musical’s script does show its age. Many themes, for example, are offensive when brought into modern day light- themes such as women being looked at as mere objects. However, these themes are true to the time and location in which the show is written and must be viewed with that in mind.
Despite some themes that may be difficult for modern-day viewers, the cast is strong. Kelly is pleasant and plucky in the leading role while Llana manages to make his chauvinistic character almost…understandable (likeable is a bit of a stretch). And, no matter what, there are still some songs that hold entertainment value, in large part due to their familiarity, for modern audiences, such as the famed “Getting to Know You,” performed lovingly by Kelly.The costumes and set are on point as well, and, ultimately, there is still charm here.
All in all, The King and I may be a bit old-fashioned, but it’s still a classic and an enjoyable one at that. Viewers new to the story will need to remember its historical context and enjoy it for what it is. Furthermore, it’s important to mention that classic musicals such as this one- musicals that aren’t based on movies or musical careers- are becoming a bit of a dying art, and that alone makes this production worth seeing and soaking in for all its worth.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I at 8 p.m. June 9, 2 and 8 p.m. June 10, and 1 and 6:30 8 p.m. June 11 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35 and up. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2212145.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIgzBzp1Szg.
TOUR CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM BIOS: http://thekinganditour.com/bios/.
The King and I (1951 Broadway and 1953 West End musical): http://www.lct.org/shows/king-and-i/ (official website for Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway production), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-king-and-i-5067 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.lct.org/media/filer_public/bf/81/bf81c231-cb24-411c-8e85-59fc428ebbdc/lct_the-king-and-i_final.pdf (Lincoln Center Theater).
The King and I (1956 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/80309/The-King-and-I/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049408/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I_(1956_film) (Wikipedia).
Richard Rodgers (New York City composer, 1902-79): http://www.rnh.com/bio/175/Rodgers-Richard (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/richard-rodgers-8323 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006256/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rodgers (Wikipedia).
Oscar Hammerstein II (New York City lyricist and librettist, 1895-1960):http://www.rnh.com/bio/154/Hammerstein-II-Oscar (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/oscar-hammerstein-ii-7965 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0358564/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Hammerstein_II (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.