A Vibrant Revival Of The King And I Opens Downtown

Posted April 7, 2017 by Cheryl Fenton in Downtown Boston
Jose Llana as The King of Siam & Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna Leonowens in The King and I tour. Photo Credit: Matt Murphy

Every so often, among a sea of new ideas, you need to revisit an old favorite. This April musical lovers can do just that.

The national tour of The Lincoln Center Theater brings its vibrant revival of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s The King and I to the Boston Opera House for a limited two-week engagement from April 11 through 23.

It might have opened on Broadway back in the ’50s, but you probably know the story best through the Academy Award-winning 1956 film, as Yul Brynner re-created his role of The King of Siam opposite Deborah Kerr, as the schoolteacher who won his heart. Directed by Bartlett Sher, this inspired revamp of the 1951 Broadway musical won four 2015 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.

The year is 1862. The place is Bangkok. The story is one of an unconventional relationship between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a strong-willed, widowed British schoolteacher. The modern ruler brings her to his imperialistic kingdom to educate his wives and dozens (and dozens) of children.

So many love stories, so little time. Actually perhaps that’s why this show is a bit long, clocking in at close to three hours. First, there’s Anna, who reluctantly admits she’s in love with the King, the feeling being quite mutual. Then there’s Lady Thiang, the King’s chief wife, and her obvious feelings for her powerful husband. Rounding it out, Tuptim (played by Manna Nichols) is a Burmese slave who is set to wed the King but whose heart belongs to Lun Tha (a Burmese scholar played by Kavin Panmeechao). All these feels could be exactly why The New York Times call this show a “five-handkerchief masterpiece.”

Known as a major feather in the caps of duo Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I boasts a familiar score of beloved classics such as “Getting To Know You,” a tune sung between Anna, the wives and the children as they learn about each other’s differences and similarities. There’s also the mother and son duo “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” as well as the King and Anna sharing “Shall We Dance” and “Something Wonderful.”

The cast for the national tour has two heavy hitters at the helm – Oliver Award-winning actress Laura Michelle Kelly (known from the London production of Disney’s Mary Poppins and Broadway’s Finding Neverland) as Anna and solo CD artist Jose Llana as the King of Siam. Joan Almedilla will play Lady Thiang, along with Brian Rivera as Kralahome, the King’s prime minister and confidant.
Visually, the show will be a stunner, with an award-winning creative team including set design by Michael Yeargan; costume design by Catherine Zuber; and lights by Donald Holder (all three nominated for 2015 Tony Awards). Christopher Gattelli creates several delightful dance interludes based on the original choreography by Jerome Robbins.

You might say the show does exactly what it sings loud and clear – it promises to be something wonderful.
Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm (Wednesday, April 12, show is at 7pm); Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 1pm and 6:30pm. The Boston Opera House is located at 539 Washington Street in Boston.