The King and I Musical Review – A Show Fit For a King

Broadway In Chicago is presenting the Lincoln Center Theater production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I at the Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph). This Tony Award-winning revival is playing Chicago for a limited three-week engagement through July 2, 2017.  See it soon.


Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, THE KING AND I boasts a score that features such beloved classics as “Getting To Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful.” Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.


Directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, the Lincoln Center Theater production won four 2015 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical. Hailed as “first-rate, sumptuous” (The New York Times) and "too beautiful to miss" (New York Magazine), this iconic musical is led by Olivier Award-winning actress Laura Michelle Kelly, known for her performance as the title role in the London production of Disney’s Mary Poppins as well as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the Broadway production of Finding Neverland. Kelly stars opposite Jose Llana who returns to the role of “The King of Siam” after two starring engagements in the acclaimed Lincoln Center revival.



Jose Llana as The King in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


Sher reunites with an award-winning creative team from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza. THE KING AND I has music direction by Ted Sperling, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber (Tony Award winner for THE KING AND I), lighting by Donald Holder, soundby Scott Lehrer and casting by Telsey + Company/Abbie Brady-Dalton, CSA. THE KING AND I features choreography by Christopher Gattelli based on the original choreography by Jerome Robbins.


The King and I production was a lovely and enjoyable theater experience to attend. The well-done revival of the classic musical brought a modern freshness to it, while still remaining faithful to the orignal stage production. Everything from the cast to the costumes to the stage design was exquisite. The opening of the show was impressive as well with the boat docking scene when Anna and her son Tom first arrive in the Siam Harbor. It was a scenic background of ocean steam, 19th century Siam architecture and city locals and merchants scurrying around the stage. I also loved the set design for the King’s royal residence and the ballet scene during Uncle Tom’s Cabin.



Laura Michelle Kelly, Baylen Thomas and Graham Montgomery in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


The title roles, played by Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) and Jose Llana (The King), both stole the show. They each in their own right brought out the best of both beloved characters. Kelly played Anna with a lovely voice and new take on the headstrong, independent female schoolteacher. Llana was perfect for the King, whose also humorous performance was already well-seasoned from the Lincoln Center revival. Another wonderful part of the production was the doomed romance between Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kevin Panmeechao (Lun Tha). Tuptim is a "gift" from Burma's king to keep peace with Siam. However, though a slave to King Monkut, Tuptim has a lover, Lun Tha, who she plans to escape with back to Burma.


Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


Jose Llana as The King in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


Other notable performances included Joan Almedilla (Lady Thiang) whose beautiful performance as the king’s favorite wife, and of course, the King’s many royal children, who were all simply adorable to watch on stage! One of my favorite scenes in the King and I has always been when Anna is first introduced to the royal children. They take turns walking up to her, bowing and then placing their heads in her hands, as a sign of respect. Llana and Kelly also had great chemistry onstage as the two conflicting personalities of Western and Asian, whom end up forming an intimate connection of friendship, despite their differences. Also, the show was an important reminder of the world’s current events and issues such as gender, politics and religion.


Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I



Also worth mentioning were the amazing dancers who perfected the delicate, yet beautiful traditional Siamese/Thai dance. The dancers performed numbers during scene changes, as well as the already mentioned and always gorgeous rendition of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin dance.


Michiko Takemasa as Little Eva in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I


The cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I



Overall, the entire production of the King and I was an utter delight to attend. I had seen the film before and done stagehand work for a high school production of the show, but to witness a such a grand scale Broadway production was once in a lifetime. Do not miss a chance to see The King and I at Broadway in Chicago!



Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I



Tickets for THE KING AND I at the Oriental Theatre range from $24-$90. A select number of premium tickets are available for many performances. Group tickets for 10 or more are available by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online.




Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 17 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country. A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining well up to 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including The PrivateBank Theatre, Oriental Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.




Photos: Matthew Murphy



For more information, visit the Broadway in Chicago website.



Follow THE KING AND I Facebook @TheKingAndIMusical Twitter @TheKingAndITour


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