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Review: The King & I (London Palladium)

Wednesday, 4th Jul 2018  

The King and I Review - London Palladium

The London Palladium is one of the greatest theatres in the world, playing host to some of the biggest and best productions and performers in the history of show business, any major musical playing there has high standards to live up to given the theatrical ghosts that inhabit the brick and mortar of London’s most famous theatre. The Lincoln Center’s Tony award winning revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s classic musical The King & I is a fitting addition to the Palladiums proud legacy.

For those not familiar with the story, the musical is set in 1860’s Bangkok. Anna, a British schoolteacher, is employed by the King of Siam to teach his wives and children about the world beyond their borders. She brings with her thinking that challenges the King to live up to the modern thinking he claims to aspire to live by.  Their relationship is unconventional but gradually their friendship and respect for each other blossoms. The King’s rule is threatened when he is thought a barbarian by the outside world and he must look to Anna to help convince a British diplomat that he is progressive and civilized.

There is always a danger of the older musicals becoming dated and a little stale by today’s blockbusting standards, but the sense of scale and beauty are so entrancing in Bartlett Sher’s production - featuring an incredible cast, headed up by Oscar and Tony award Nominee Ken Watanabe and Tony award winner Kelli O’Hara – that you cannot help but be swept away by it charm.  The production has been extended until September 13th due to popular demand and, judging by the response from the packed house, it’s easy to see why. The Audience was aglow with delight when hits such as Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance were performed.

Elegant set designs by Michael Yeargan & sumptuous costumes by Catherine Zuber are complemented perfectly by Donald Holder’s lighting design. Christopher Gattelli’s choreography of the piece (based on that of Jerome Robbins) is as impressive as it is intricate.

This is feel good family fun. A charming story beautifully realised. But for me, the night belongs to Ms O’Hara. It is such a privilege to see a performance with such expert poise and absolute commitment coupled with a voice that you could listen to forever and never tire of.

Article filed under: Theatre News | Show Reviews |