Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The King and I

When Lincoln Center Theater takes on a project, they never fail to dazzle and impress.  With the largest and best thrust stage in NYC, the scenic effects and  the overall theatricality appear boundless and always delight.  The orchestra - exposed, vibrant, and lush - never fails to fill the theater to the brim with complex melodies.  This production of The King and I, a Rogers and Hammerstein classic, is no exception from a production standpoint.  On any other stage it would be less.  With such a large cast as this show supports (virtually all Broadway  debuts), I'm not sure they would even fit!

What this production suffers from is a mis-matched leading pair.  The divine and regal Kelli O'Hara in her gowns and frocks is nothing short of sublime.  Her Portrayal of Anna Leonowens is both tender and bold, both strong and sympathetic.  Her voice is near pitch perfect and just about every note she uttered was near pitch-perfect.   However, she is not matched in her leading man, Ken Wantanabe (King of Siam).  He may look the part, but there was something about his dialogue and delivery of the lines that suggested he had trouble with the English language which seems a bit odd to me.  What possessed them to cast someone who was not easily understood?  I did not conduct extensive background research here so I'm just reporting on what I saw and how it came across to me.  It is what it is and it was a mark in the negatives column.

The show itself is an odd pastiche of scenes and a play-within-a-play.   I enjoyed the spectacle put on by director, Bartlett Sher, and the creative and technical teams (Small House of Uncle Tom), but it always feels like a distraction and runs longer than needed and tends to distract from the cohesiveness and main story.  There are always the children who bring smiles to many faces, but again, there seem to be a few too many and the endless procession of little bodies with nothing more than obligatory bows and scurrying gets old fairly fast.

We will see if this is indeed Kelli's year to win a (well deserved) Tony.  She's got some stiff competition from Ms. Chenoweth in her show and that show, unlike this one, is hammering on all cylinders from start to finish.