Bartlett Sher’s revival of The King & I breathes new into the beloved show.
The new touring production of The King & I opened to the packed-out Leeds Grand Theatre on 31st October. Rogers and Hammerstein’s fifth production sees Anna Leonowens and her young son Louis travel to Siam (now known as Thailand) where Anna has taken up a position as a governess to the King of Siam’s children. The story sees cultures clash and find new understanding in each other, all while Anna and the King find their feelings growing, even as they snipe at each other. Etcetera, etcetera… as the characters are so fond of saying.
The standout performance of the evening was Annalene Beechey as Anna, bringing raw emotion and passion to the character of Anna. Her beautiful singing voice suits the character perfectly, at turns gentle and strong when the situation – or the music – calls for it.
Darren Lee also shines in his role as the King, with an impeccable sense of comedic timing. His portrayal of what is undoubtedly a complex character ensures that you, like Anna, love the King despite his flaws. Despite the moments of hilarity, Lee still manages to cut a frightening figure in the show’s climax, startling several audience members, myself included.
Special mention must go to the dancers performing the ballet of the show, which took the form of traditional Thai theatre. The metadrama is quite a spectacle, with expressive and graceful dancing, as one of the characters, Tuptim, tells the story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, reflecting her own life of slavery.
Overall, it’s a fabulous production, proving that the classic show has remained a classic for a reason. If you get the chance to see it, do!