The story, set in 1860's Bangkok, concerns the King of Siam who hires an English schoolteacher to teach his children about Western culture. However, the new teacher is an upright, stubborn lady who challenges the King's methods of ruling his people. What ensures is a battle of wills etc, etc, etc.
Having loved the film version I was looking forward to seeing this stage production, sadly it does not compare, but then Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr are a very hard act to follow. Although, I suppose it is unfair to compare the film version with the stage as the mediums are very different.
This show is an entertaining 3 hours with many familiar tunes that carry a weak, out dated, but 'cute' story. It has a good sugary feeling about it that is pure escapism.
This show is interestingly cast!! Jason Scott Lee looks far too young for the part, and Elaine Paige, a little too old. However, they do click on stage and form formidable opponents. Elaine Paige, as Anna Leonowens, is as competent as ever with her fine voice and acting skills. Although, she does lack bite when rebuking the king. Jason Scott Lee though is the one that makes this musical work. He is utterly convincing as the King, with sharp timing and delivery. He is very adapt at capturing both the compassion and humour of the King, along with his menacing presence. The children are enchanting and Taewon Yi Kim as 'Lady Thiang', has an amazing voice when she beautifully sings 'Something Wonderful'.
I found the production charming and fully entertaining. It is not a production trying to do anything different or experimental, it is just an old fashioned musical that has been solidly revived. However, I did have some trouble with the king dying because his heart gives way, I mean he looked so young!! Also, because of the age difference the romantic attraction between Anna and the King did not quite work. It was more of a mother and son relationship. However, this apart, it is still engaging with such popular songs as 'Shall We Dance', 'Hello Young Lovers', 'I Whistle a Happy Tune', and 'Getting To Know You'.
The show has received mixed notices from the popular press..... NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says it left his ears "unimpressed" and his heart "unengaged". He also thought the production looked "rather stale". JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "As a singer, Paige is a fine technician who knows how to use her voice, but it is a voice I do not like: it sounds hard, almost metallic, and like her acting, it is not suited to expressing feelings." THE EXPRESS says, "The trouble is that Christopher Renshaw's frankly provincial production has no pace or vitality and is too faithfully reconstituted in a red cavern of stooping elephant trunks, Brian Thomson's design resembles a large-scale Indian restaurant with a naff floorshow." JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT says, "She [Paige] is best when she keeps it tough and resourceful, and Scott Lee makes a witty, sardonic tyrant." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "A handsome, spectacular, strongly performed introduction to one of the truly great musicals." SHERIDAN MORLEY for TELETEXT had great things to say about Paige's performance, "Elaine Paige, confirming her title as the first lady of the British musical stage, admittedly against precious little opposition, takes charge of a show that was always meant to be about Anna. In doing so, she gives us what is unquestionably the performance of her career so far." THE DAILY MIRROR says, "Elaine Paige as English governess Anna proves she is the queen of the British stage musical and also shows a delicate comic touch." THE EXPRESS says, "Love it or loathe it, The King and I is an unstoppable smash." PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "Although possibly too young for the role, Jason Scott Lee is a fine catch to play the King. He has a natural authority, a good singing voice and enjoys the role's comedy aspects.."
I am confident that most people who see this musical will fully enjoy it. So go and see it now.
The show is due to return to London in Summer 2018. The King and I Tickets will be on sale soon.