Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The King and I
National Tour
Review by Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's reviews of The Wiz and The Whale


Jose Llama and Laura Michelle Kelly
Photo by Matthew Murphy
What an opening night it must have been in 1951 when The King and I opened on Broadway with Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner in the leading roles. The show won a Tony Award for Best Musical, Lawrence and Brynner received Tony Awards for their performances, Jo Mielziner (scenic designer) and Irene Sharaff (costume designer) received Tony Awards. The show was such a success Lawrence was invited to sing selections from the music on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town.

Now, 66 years later, The King and I is touring this country and has arrived in Cleveland for a 19-day stretch of performances. This production is everything an audience could want. Anna once again arrives in Siam to teach the King's children and to help modernize Siam. Catherine Zuber (costume designer) provides a spectacular visual treat for the audience. Of course, the costumes build to the glorious "Shall We Dance?" polka with the King in red and Anna in a pale-blue ballgown that sails out behind her. Michael Yeargan (sets) sails Anna and Louis, her son, onto the stage in a beautiful boat that separates and proves a ramp to take the boat's passengers to the dock. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the set is ordinary.

The King and I has some of the most beautiful music and lyrics written by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). Many of the songs have become successes outside of the play. For example, consider: "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Hello, Young Lovers," "Getting to Know You," "We Kiss in the Shadows," "Something Wonderful," "I Have Dreamed," and "Shall We Dance?". Rodgers and Hammerstein were at the peak of their powers when they wrote The King and I.

This touring company has a cast of 36 actors and dancers. The company travels with four musicians and hires 14 local musicians. The casting places an emphasis on dancers and singers. I don't remember ever seeing this many dance sequences and such a large dance company for The Small House of Uncle Thomas (ballet).

Laura Michelle Kelly is a beautiful Anna. She has a glorious singing voice that hits each note perfectly and with appropriate emotions. Kelly makes Anna confront the King with a toughness seldom seen on the stage in the mid-1900s. Jose Llana creates a King of Siam who is a tough law-and-order dictator. He stops the show with the line, "I think I will build a fence around Siam." He makes the King vulnerable—this is a king who wants to improve his country, but he doesn't know how to start. He wants Anna to lead him into renovating his country. He is excellent in this role.

Joan Almedilla brings Lady Thiang, the first wife of the king and mother of the heir to the throne, to the stage with dignity and style; Lady Thiang has power within the storyline. Almedilla has a strong voice trained for the opera stages, but, she's chosen Broadway and musicals. She was a crowd favorite at the performance I attended. The young lovers Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao are beautiful to look at, and they sing as well as lovers should sing. Their solos and duets are all the more poignant because of what is to follow in their story line.

Had the cast been willing to perform the show again, immediately after the curtain call, I would have stayed in the Connor Palace Theater and enjoyed the performance again.

The King and I continues in the Connor Palace, Playhouse Square, Cleveland, through February 26, 2017. For tickets and information, call 216-640-8800 or visit www.playhousesquare.org/broadway. For more information on the tour, visit thekinganditour.com.

Music: Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the novel "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon
Anna Leonowens: Laura Michelle Kelly
King of Siam: Jose Llana
Lady Thiang: Joan Almedilla
Kralahome: Brian Rivera
Tuptim: Manna Nichols
Lun Tha: Kavin Panmeechao
Prince Chulalongkorn: Anthony Chan
Lois Leonowens: Graham Montgomery
Captain Orton/ Sir Edward Ramsey: Baylen Thomas
Phra Alack: Darren Lede
Princess Ying Yaowlak: Rylie Sickles
Royal Court Dancers: Stephanie Lo, Jeoffrey Watson
Fan Dancers: Mindy Lai, Yuki Ozeki
Royal Wives, Townspeople: Amaya Braganza, Lamae Caparas, Michelle Liu Coughlin, Nicole Ferguson, Marie Gutierrez, Mindy Lai, Q Lim, Stephanie Lo, Yuki Ozeki, Michiko Takemasa
Guards, Monks, Townspeople: Andrew Cheng, Daniel J. Edwards, Darren Lee, Michael Lomeka, Nobutaka Mochimaru, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, Sam Simahk, Jeoffrey Watson
Royal Children: Jaden D. Amistad, Kayla Paige Amistad, Adriana Braganza, Amaya Braganza, Rylie Sickles, Noah Toledo, CJ UY
The Small House of Uncle Thomas (Ballet): Eliza: Lamae Caparas
Uncle Thomas: Amaya Braganza
Angel/George: Nobutaka Mochimaru
Topsy: Yuki Ozeki
Simon of Legree: Rommel Pierre O'Choa
Little Eva: Michiko Takemasa
Propmen: Daniel J. Edwards, Darrel Lee, Sam Simahk
Dogs: Marie Gutierrez, Mindy Lai, Stephanie Lo
Guards: Andrew Cheng, Michael Lomeka, Jeoffrey Watson
Royal Singers:Michelle Liu Coughlin, Q Lim, Nicole Ferguson
Orchestra: Conductor: Gerald Steichen
Associate Conductor/ Synthesizer: Tim Laciano
Acoustic Bass: Chiho Saegusa
Drums/Percussion: Mark O'Kain
Concertmaster: Diana Pepelea Vaqrdi
Violin 2: Mary Beth Ions
Viola: Laura Shuster
Cello: Linda Atherton
Flute /Piccolo: Kyra Kester
Oboe/English Horn: Martin Neubert
Bassoon: Katherine Shanklin
Clarinet: Dan Heasley
Trumpet: joe Miller
French Horn 1: Ken Wadenpfuhl
French Horn 2: Sean Yancer
Trombone: David Mitchell
Harp: Nancy Paterson
Contractor: David Santa-Emma
Sets: Michael Yeargan
Costumes: Catherine Zuber
Wig and Hair Designer: Tom Watson
Choreographer: Christopher Gattelli
Based on the Original Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
Director: Bartlett Sher


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