Having one of the theatre’s grandest shows performed in the UK’s largest theatre is a match made in heaven. With Rogers and Hammerstein’s captivating score echoing throughout the Playhouse, you are treated to a night of outstanding theatre, with brilliant performances, stunning costumes, and some of musical theatre’s best melodies.
Set in 1860’s Kingdom of Siam, now modern-day Thailand, the story follows an Englishwoman named Anna Leonowens who becomes the schoolteacher for the children of the powerful ruler, the King of Siam. Anna and the King clash due to a range of cultural differences but learn to try to understand each other. Having premiered on Broadway back in 1951, the show has gone on to become one of theatre's most well-known shows having won 14 Tony Awards across its many revivals on Broadway, and the 1957 movie version picking up 9 Academy Awards.
What makes this show as popular today as it ever was is its message of understanding one other’s differences, and always having an openness to Education and bettering oneself. This is also coupled with the incredible music with a host of well-known songs like “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance” becoming celebrated pieces. Richard Rogers's grand music transports you to the Kingdom of Siam and Oscar Hammerstein II's incredible lyrics allow you to connect with the characters and their intentions.
Within this production, you are treated to a stunning cast with West End leading lady, Annalene Beechey reprising her role from the celebrated London Palladium run. Her vocals are stunning, and she dominates the stage showing strength in the character both in her vocal ability, and her embodiment of a strong-willed schoolteacher who isn’t afraid of standing up to the King.
The King of Siam in this production is played by Brian Rivera. This also isn’t Brian’s first time taking on the role having understudied the role at the original Lincoln Center production in New York, and on the US Tour. Brian has pure star power, with rich baritone vocals, and incredible acting chops, he understands both the bold and imposing nature of the character whilst showing the character’s complexities fully in the more emotional moments of the performance. Having these two strong performers on stage gives the show real gravitas and makes it as strong as the West End production of the show.
Supporting the two leads is Cezarah Bonner as Lady Thiang, who is the voice of reason between the King and Anna. She is a very wise character who supports both Anna and the King in understanding one another and champions them both throughout the piece. Cezarah is a highly acclaimed actress and fully encapsulates the character with strong vocals and brilliant stage presence. Dean John-Wilson as Lun Tha and Marienella Phillips as Tumptim both nail the forbidden romance with strong vocals and excellent chemistry. Within this performance, Marienella sadly could not perform the show’s second half, but Amelia Kinu Muus stepped in to save the show and was an equally strong performer.
The rest of the show’s performances are impressive and the children’s ensemble who portray the King’s many children are immensely talented. The 11-piece orchestra led by Christopher Mundy do justice to Rogers & Hammerstein’s impressive score and creates the Broadway experience here in Edinburgh.
Overall, The King and I is one of Broadway’s best shows and Edinburgh audiences will this week understand why. This revised Lincoln Center Theater production brilliantly directed by Bartlett Sher is nothing short of miraculous.
The King and I, is performing at Edinburgh Playhouse until the 16th of September and is embarking on a UK Tour. Book tickets for Edinburgh here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-king-and-i/edinburgh-playhouse/ See more details about the UK Tour here: https://kingandimusical.co.uk/uk-tour-dates/