Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Whistle a Happy Tune”

The King and I

The Lincoln Center – New York , Wales Millennium Centre , January 9, 2020
The King and I by The Lincoln Center – New York “And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.”

They certainly convinced me that they were not afraid. As Anna, tonight very well played by understudy Maria Coyne and her son, Louis, a lively Joseph Black, stood on the deck of their boat, as it sailed into the docks of Bangkok, bravely singing and whistling.

Widow Anna, with her son has travelled to Siam, where she will teach the king’s children. There are quite a lot of them, as well as many wives. The moment they meet things do not go well. He has promised Anna a house but no house has materialised. He offers her accommodation in the palace. She’s not happy. But here the king is always obeyed. He is played by Jose Llana, who has played the role at the Lincoln Center, New York, where the production won a Tony award. He does ‘kingly’ well and adds a good comic touch, etc. etc.!

Anna works well, educating the king’s many children and wives. A bond develops between them. He wants her to help him ensure that Britain will not declare Siam their protectorate, which would make the king redundant. Anna and the king’s relationship are central to the production. Anna is drawn to Tuptim, evocatively and sensitively played by Paulina Yeung. She is in love with Lun Tha, Ethan Le Phong, they “…Kiss in a Shadow” beautifully. But all does not go well for them. The kings ‘leading’ wife Lady Thiang, Cezarah Bonner connects well the the audience and wins us to her side.

The production contains moments of sadness, beauty and some wonderful dancing. The staging of the story of The Small House of Uncle Thomas is a mini spectacle. These incidents of joy are wonderfully reflected in the great musicality of the orchestra splendidly under the musical direction of Malcolm Forbes-Peckham. Michael Yeargans has come up with a very fine but simple setting that provides an ideal background for this story.

This production restaged by the original Broadway director Bartlett Sher moves a bit slowly at times and some of the commitment of the cast could do with a little strengthening.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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