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The King & I

Date

23rd March 2012

Society

Romiley Operatic Society

Venue

Stockport Plaza

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Peter Birch

Musical Director

Claire Sweeney

Choreographer

Tracy Haslam

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

The King & I: a musical based on the true story of widowed English governess Anna Leonowens who has taken the job of teaching the Royal Children at the court of Siam, in a nutshell, it’s ‘The Sound of Music’ set in the Far East!

Firstly, I was a little disappointed for the first sounds from the orchestra to be the opening scene of act 1, hold on, where’s the rousing Rodgers and Hammerstein traditional Overture? Ok, I understand this maybe a little ‘old hat’ for some but it was certainly an interesting choice to cut it entirely from a musical of this nature.

Front runner in this production is Sarah Thewlis who brings splendid star quality to the role of Anna, the British governess who tries to educate the King as well as his children. Sarah sings superbly and glides across the stage with a selection of preposterous crinoline dresses, well, it wouldn’t be the King & I without some of that!

There is fine work, too, from John Meachen as the King, John portrays the King almost as a salute to Yul Brynner, who of course originated and starred in the role for decades. There is a palpable sexual spark between King and Tutor, especially when they perform the wild polka during the shows signature scene ‘Shall We Dance’.

One of my favourite scenes in this show (to many peoples frustration) is the Uncle Tom’s ballet, for me, this show can fall on its rear if it’s done badly, much to the choreographers credit, her dancers executed the style and physicality of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ to great success. Adding to that, as this is not much of a chorus show, this section is often weak when it comes to the vocals but the female chorus sounded terrific, celebrating each ‘George!’ to the audiences delight!

I cannot talk about this production and superb vocals without mentioning Susie Wright as Tuptim, a clear and beautiful soprano voice which overflowed the Plaza with enchantment during ‘My Lord and Master’ and her duets with Simon Murray as an authentic Lun Tha.

The negatives for me were the bland set which looked a little tired, every scenic suppliers offer a set for this production (many of which I’ve seen) and are all visually stunning yet the production team or committee had opted for dull and lowly scenery. Although a talented young man who delivered a good performance, Louis (Anna’s son) played by Shaun Kane was too old for the role, we lost a lot of the youth & cute factor in the opening scene during ‘Whistle a Happy Tune’ with such a mature actor. Finally, a pleasure it was and expertly done, the magical pas de deux during ‘Hello Young Lovers’ didn’t work for me, a bit of a ‘showy’ idea which it really didn’t need.

Despite some minor decisions I didn’t quite agree with, this compelling story of colliding cultures along with a Rogers and Hammerstein score is a strong production for any society to be proud of, presented in a beautiful theatre with a gifted cast, orchestra and production team.

Congratulations Romiley OS!