Monday, May 11, 2015

Margin Notes: The King and I

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara as the King and Anna.
Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The King and I

Seen on: Saturday, 5/9/15.
My grade: A. Lush and lovely production.

Plot and Background

What I Knew Beforehand
I knew the show, of course, and the movie even more so. And I knew that Bartlett Sher's revival of South Pacific, while still not a show I'll ever love, was still an extraordinary production. I went in with similar expectations for this show.


Play: As with Bartlett Sher's LCT revival of South Pacific, this was an admirable and gorgeously done production - but it still didn't make me love the show. But again as with SP, this is definitely the way to see a show you don't love. Sher took advantage of the vast sweep of the Vivian Beaumont's thrust stage to give us an expansive space of light and dark, of connection and uncrossable divides. He also managed to well-craft dialogue-less moments, notably the romance between Tuptim and Lun Tha. Armed with the choreography of Gattelli/Robbins, and a distant echo of the iconic moments from the film, he delivered a full and rich view of a trying-not-to-be-but-still-kind-of-is-racist musical.

Cast: Okay, we need to talk about the freaking kids, because they may be the actual cutest children existing on Broadway right now. Like seriously. I know "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" and "Shall We Dance" are the two famous sequences in the show, but "The March of Siamese Children" may have been my favorite part because SO CUTE. Flail over, to the rest of the cast! The adult MVP here is indisputably Ruthie Ann Miles (who just won an Outer Critics award!) as Lady Thiang. Her stoic presence and soaring voice served as a keystone holding together the other wives and children (and, to a large degree, Anna and the King themselves). Kelli O'Hara delivered the performance I expected of her - lovely soprano voice, warm presence, fine subtle acting - but I couldn't help feeling that I'd seen all of this from her before. She is unarguably one of our finest contemporary Rodgers & Hammerstein interpreters, but this role didn't necessarily draw anything new and fresh from her. Ken Watanabe was a thrill to see live, and acted really quite well, but - as has been reported elsewhere - he struggles with his diction throughout the show and "A Puzzlement" is a struggle for both singer and audience.

Kelli O'Hara and the children. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Design: Michael Yeargan and Catherine Zuber achieve a lush and lovely world for the show - though Yeargan's set is, with the exception of the boat at the top of the show and the Buddha statue in the King's quarters, rather bare, it's with a specific aesthetic of minimalism and beauty. And god, do I want to steal that show curtain for my home. Zuber's costumes, though predictable for anyone who knows the show or film, are nonetheless masterfully done - Anna and her hoop skirts, the wives with their bright colors, the King with his robes.


Running: Now playing at Vivian Beaumont Theater (Lincoln Center) - Opened: April 16, 2015.
Category: musical
Length: 2 hours, 55 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Book & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Music: Richard Rodgers
Director: Bartlett Sher
Designers: Christopher Gattelli (Choreography, based on the original choreography of Jerome Robbins), Michael Yeargan (Set), Catherine Zuber (Costume), Donald Holder (Lighting), Scott Lehrer (Sound), Robert Russell Bennett (Orchestrations).
Cast: Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe, Ruthi Ann Miles, Conrad Ricamora, Ashley Park, Edward Baker-Duly, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Murphy Guyer, Jake Lucas, Paul Nakauchi, Marc Oka, Aaron Albano, Adriana Braganza, Amaya Braganza, Billy Bustamante, Lamae Caparas, Hsin-Ping Chang, Andrew Cheng, Lynn Masako Cheng, Olivia Chun, Ali Ewoldt, Ethan Halford Holder, Cole Horibe, Maryann Hu, James Ignacio, Christie Kim, Kelvin Moon Loh, Sumie Maeda, Paul Heesang Miller, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, Kristen Faith Oei, Autumn Ogawa, Yuki Ozeki, Stephanie Jae Park, Diane Phelan, Sam Poon, Brian Rivera, Bennyroyce Royon, Lainie Sakakura, Ann Sanders, Ian Saraceni, Atsuhisa Shinomiya, Michiko Takemasa, Kei Tsuruharatani, Christopher Vo, Rocco Wu, Timothy Yang.

Ruthie Ann Miles and Kelli O'Hara as Lady Thiang and Anna.
Photo by Paul Konlik.

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