On Stage: The King and I

After entertaining audiences with the modern musicals “On Your Feet!” and “The Bodyguard,” the Fox Theatre is dancing back to Broadway’s golden age with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic “The King and I.”

The show is based on the life of Anna Leonowens, who served as governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Her story was made into a book — “Anna and the King of Siam” — by Margaret Landon in 1944. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II turned the tale into a musical that made its Broadway premiere in 1951.

The current touring production, directed by Bartlett Sher, won four Tony awards in 2015, including Best Revival of a Musical.

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy_preview

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in “The King and I.” Photo by Matthew Murphy

Laura Michelle Kelly stars as Anna — the “I” in the title — a widowed mother of one who has come to Bangkok to teach the many children, and wives, of the King (Jose Llana). The king wants to be considered a modern-day ruler but continues to cling to old ways. It’s a puzzlement.

Both Anna and the king are strong-willed and the challenging nature of their relationship is the heart of the story. There’s a subplot involving a young princess (Q Lim) who doesn’t want to be the king’s property.  Also playing a key role is Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, the first among the king’s wives.

The leads all have powerful voices as they deliver such standards as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,”  “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” Kelly performs the role of classic musical heroine with grace and style while Llana is a supercharged powder keg of explosive energy.

The set design is minimal for the most part while the costumes are bright and elaborate. The music is sharp and memorable and the performances are all strong. “The King and I” isn’t a holiday classic, but it’s a fine diversion for the holiday season.

“The King and I” runs through Dec. 10. www.fabulousfox.com

 

 

 

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