Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The King and I

Clear Channel Entertainment , New Theatre Cardiff , November-17-05
IT was a nice touch by actress Elizabeth Reniham to acknowledge that Anna Leonowens – the Anna who tames the King of Siam – was Welsh. Whether she stresses or even includes this when the show is outside Wales I do not know.

The production is a feel good nostalgia trip that works extremely well. It has the feel of a musical written in the early 1950s when Thailand was still an exotic and little known country for most Westerners.

Okay so we all know the film with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner which last time I checked was still banned in Thailand but this stage version actually works better.

As someone familiar with Thai dance staged in Bangkok this is pretty well authentic.

For example, when the royal children perform The Little House of Uncle Thomas the story of runaway slaves in America the significance of the irony that a civilized nation was locked in Civil War over slavery is far more poignant when played straight to the theatre audience.

This might not have the budget of the 1956 Hollywood epic – which won Brynner the Best Actor Oscar -but the set and costumes are both charming and presumably accurate and you really do feel the reversed exoticism of Thai women and children baffled and intrigued by Western clothing and mannerisms.

This is the first time I have seen the musical on stage and Elizabeth Renihan is vocally remarkably similar to the role immortalized by Deborah Kerr and although Kevin Gray has a shaved head and lots of pahs and etc etcs reminiscent of Yul Brynner’s film role he stamps his own personality on the part.

The audience sighed in all the right places as the royal children weaved their magic and the young lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim, played by Phong Truong and Yanle Zhong were scrumptious.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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