After missing out on the last couple of shows for various reasons, I made my way back to Forest Park last night for The Muny’s 2012 season-ender, Rogers and Hamerstein’s classic “The King and I.”
I had never seen “The King and I” performed on stage before. I don’t even think I’ve sat through the entire movie, but I’ve seen enough of it to know the high points — etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
It’s an ambitious production and once again The Muny was up to the task. Set in 1862 and based on a true story, it tells the tale of Anna Leonowens (Laura Michelle Kelly), an independent-minded English widow who arrives in Siam on assignment to teach the many children — and wives — of the country’s headstrong King (Kevin Gray). It’s like an Asian version of “The Sound of Music.” There’s also a subplot involving a young woman (Stephanie Park) who has been given to the King as a gift, but she’s secretly in love with another man (Joshua Dela Cruz).
This production of this long-running musical features the same standards of quality that I’ve seen all summer in Executive Producer Mike Issacson’s inaugural year running the show. The orchestra was excellent, the costumes were colorful and elaborate, the set design was sharp and impressive.
The acting talent continues to be first rate. Gray and Kelly were strong leads — Kelly had a Julie Andrews quality to her singing, and that’s high praise in musical theater. I haven’t mentioned Joan Almedilla, who plays Lady Thiang, but she also had an impressive singing voice.
Having sat through the whole thing for the first time, I have to admit that “The King and I” is not one of my favorite musicals. It’s a good show but the songs and the story didn’t particularly move me, although I was impressed by the “March of the Siamese Children” and “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet.
But if you’re a big fan of the show, you’d be hard pressed to find a better production.