Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The King and I
National tour
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of H.M.S. Pinafore and Richard's review of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I has pulled into the Golden Gate Theatre and will be there until December 11. This is one of my favorite musicals, having seen the original production starring Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence in the summer of 1951 at the St. James Theatre. Over the years I have seen many productions, including the London production in 1973 with Sally Ann Howes and Peter Wyngrarde and in January 1985 in Los Angeles with Yul Brynner and Mary Beth Peil. Without reservation, this production is comparable to those. The original production was somewhat anti-feminist and I have seen productions that were anti-British. However, this production is feminist style, as Anna is stronger demanding a house of her own.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's score is one of the most treasured and esteemed ever written. There are entertaining songs like "I Whistle a Happy Tune" and "Getting to Know You" and captivating ballads such as "Hello, Young Lovers" and "We Kiss in a Shadow." My favorite is the pulsating "March of Royal Siamese Children," featuring the charming children of the king being introduced to Anna, and "Shall We Dance?" in which Anna and the king almost burst as they dance together.

Everyone in the cast has glorious vocal chops. Jose LLana is magnificent as the King of Siam. He captures the extremes of the character. As a father he's proud and indulgent; as a man he is smart, pig-headed and likable. Llana's accent is fine and he has a powerful voice when singing "A Puzzlement." London actress Laura Michelle Kelly is outstanding as Anna (she won an Olivier Award for Mary Poppins). She has a melodious voice when singing "Hello, Young Lovers," "Getting to Know You," and "I Whistle a Happy Tune." She plays the role much stronger than previous Annas I've seen.

The supporting cast are pitch perfect. Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao are absolutely wonderful as the Burmese slave girl Tuptim and her lover Lun Tha. Their duet "We Kiss in a Shadow" is pure bliss. Joan Almedilla's performance as Lady Thiang is splendid. Her delivery of "Something Wonderful" is radiant. The children of the king are a delight, particularly Anthony Chan, who gives a glowing performance as Prince Chulalongkorn. Rounding out the cast are Brian Rivera as the Kralahome, Baylen Thomas playing Captain Orton and Sir Edward Ramsey, and Adriana Braganza who plays the role of Princess Ying Yaowalak, all excellent in their small roles.

Sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes by Catherine Zuber are spectacular. The choreography by Christopher Gattelli, especially for "The Small House of Uncle Tomas," is superb and energy driven. Sound by Scott Lehrer is perfect. Gerald Steichen faultlessly directs the large pit orchestra. Bartlett Sher exquisitely directed this stunning production.

The King and I runs through December 11, 2016, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit thekinganditour.com. Coming up next is White Christmas running from December 14 to December 24 at the Golden Gate Theatre and Finding Neverland at the Orpheum on January 18 to February 12, 2017. Hamilton begins in March.


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