08 July 2018 (released)
If you don’t leave this spellbinding production with tears in your eyes, a grin from ear to ear or sore hands from ferocious clapping, then you need to get another ticket and watch it all over again.
From the opening scene as Anna and her son dock in Siam to the emotional finale, Bartlett Sher’s production will leave you captivated, enthralled and on the edge of your seat.
This revival has been brought to London’s West End direct from Broadway with Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe reprising their roles as teacher and governess Anna and King Mongkut of Siam, respectively.
And they are perfectly cast to play the lead roles, the chemistry between them crackles and fizzes throughout, leaving the audience itching for something special to happen even as they tease each other, clash over their cultural differences but yet both seeking a common purpose.
Together they are a star duo, moving in sync with each other on Michael Yeargan’s simple yet elegant sets, O’Hara’s vocals carrying Watanabe’s in perfect harmony.
Individually they both bring something very special to this show. O’Hara has one of those expressive and yet melancholy voices that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. After her haunting version of Hello, Young Lovers, which beautifully reverberated around the Palladium from the floor to the rafters, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
And she proved that her comedy timing is also a joy as she made us laugh and cheer through her rendition of Shall I Tell You What I Think of You as she scolds and berates the stuffy, old-fashioned king and his misogynistic ways.
Only O’Hara and Watanabe have reprised their roles from the Broadway production and special praise must be given to the supporting stars, especially the young cast playing the King’s many children, who were very sweet and funny and took their cues from the adult cast perfectly.
Naoko Mori plays the soft yet formidable Lady Thiang, and blew the audience away with her operatic vocals, a far cry from her better known roles as Sarah from Absolutely Fabulous and Toshiko in Torchwood. While Na-Young Jeon dazzles as servant girl Tuptim.
Almost 60 years after Rodgers and Hammerstein premiered The King and I on Broadway, this is a show that continues to delight whether here or across the Pond and will for many years to come.
The London revival runs until September 29th.