Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) The King and I

Not Whistling Dixie!
by Jay Catterson

The Richmond Gateway Theatre Society brings the legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I to life this holiday season. Based on the 1944 Margaret Landon novel Anna and the King of Siam, this show tells of Anna Leonowens' (Barbara Tomasic) unconventional relationship with the King of Siam (Jovanni Sy) while serving as schoolteacher to his many children, and features such iconic songs as "I Whistle a Happy Tune", "Getting To Know You" and "Shall We Dance?". Now does Gateway Theatre do this Rodgers and Hammerstein tuner justice? Well I'm quite ecstatic that I got to know this King and I over a truly joyous two-and-a-half-hour period.

The exquisite set design by Marshall McMahen and sumptuous costumes by Carmen Alattore serve up a feast for the eyes, and the orchestra, led by Christopher King, is superb. In fact, I cannot recall having heard such a tight orchestra in any of the more recent local productions in Vancouver over the past few months. And the cast does not disappoint either; leading lady Tomasic is stoic and stately as Anna, and Sy gives a brilliantly humorous, yet smartly nuanced performance as the King. Rosie Simon and Justin Daniel Lapena are absolutely stunning as the star-crossed lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha, and their breathtaking yet heartbreaking rendition of "We Kiss In A Shadow" is a definite highlight of the show. The ensemble is quite strong, executing the score's complex vocals and Harriet Chung's complex Thai-inspired choreography with ease. And those kids! So adorable! 

Now I have to be honest and say that The King and I isn't my favourite Rodgers and Hammerstein  show (that honour goes to South Pacific), and many may argue whether or not this show is still relevant in this day and age; however, Gateway Theatre has to be lauded for producing such a joyously faithful production of this classic musical that will delight fans and newcomers alike. And true to the lyrics, this production definitely had me whistling a happy tune long after I left the theatre. 

The King and I runs Dec. 5 - 31

DID YOU KNOW...? Anna Leonowens is buried in Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery.

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