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Theatre Review: The King and I *****

Michael Cox reviews a production that 'is musical theatre at its best'.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is arguably one of musical theatre’s greatest works. Featuring iconic songs and dealing with complicated characters and plot points, along with the existence of an iconic film adaptation, the musical comes with lineage baggage.

So if there’s anything that impresses more about this latest revival, it is in the fact that it feels fresh, grand and enchanting.

For the uninitiated, the story follows Anna Leonowens, a widow who in the 1860s was hired by the King of Siam to teach the royal children. The King wants to be viewed as modern and so holds court in English and wants his (very many) children to be schooled in the ways of the modern world. But Leonowens is far feistier than he presumes, and her push for self-autonomy leads to culture clashes.

The historical accuracy of the story has been debated for some time, yet the musical itself is a firecracker of emotion with wonderful music and a book that is rich and populated with complex characters and plot points.

And the production is a parade of superlatives. Everything about it—the design, the choreography and the production values—are top notch. The cast are uniformly excellent without a weak link, and the direction is quickly paced and filled with visual wonders.

It’s next to impossible to envision how one can create a production that could match what director Bartlett Sher and company have accomplished here. This is musical theatre at its best, and it should not be missed.

Run at the King’s in Glasgow has ended, but it continues its UK tour.

Tags: theatre

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