‘The King and I’ was heartfelt.
With thousands upon thousands of musicals to choose from, each year, theatre companies are tasked with the difficult job of selecting the best shows to feature as part of their season. Too often, in a bid to stay relevant to a modern audience, companies abandon the ‘classics’ and try their luck with more ‘cutting-edge’ shows. Old favourites like ‘The King and I’, by dynamic duo Rogers and Hammerstein, are often overlooked and touted as being irrelevant and dated. But, this is simply not the case as Gold Coast Little Theatre have demonstrated with their most recent offering. Their production of ‘The King and I’ is heartfelt and elegant, proving that the classics still have a place in modern theatre.
Adapted from the 1956 film and with a recent revival on Broadway, ‘The King and I’ proves its relevance in a society where cultural acceptance and the celebration of diversity continue to be all-important issues. The story centres around a British teacher, Anna Leonowens, who, along with her young son, travels to Siam to educate the Royal wives and children about Western culture, language and ideals. Anna and the stubborn King eventually put aside their differences and devise a plan to gain the King’s favour with the Western diplomats. The plan is successfully enacted and just as Anna and the King begin to grow fond of one another, and he is accepted by the Europeans, he meets his untimely demise leaving his son, Prince Chulalongkorn, to lead Siam into the modern world.
Gold Coast Little Theatre’s production of ‘The King and I’ did not disappoint, and all production, design and creative elements worked harmoniously to present an engaging show. Their interpretation of the musical was creative and true to the traditional Thai style.
The costumes, by Shirley Whitehouse, were visually appealing and well suited to the setting. In particular, Anna’s purple dress and the gold headpieces worn by the King’s wives throughout were stunning. That said, a few extra wigs for some of the lighter haired wives may have helped to aid the audience’s belief that the show is set in Siam.
The set (by Stuart Morgan) was simplistic yet functional with a series of movable pillars used to differentiate the distinct locations. Whilst these pillars served their general purpose, place was not always clearly established by these alone, and lighting and sound effects were heavily relied upon to help construct the setting. For instance, the chirping cricket sound effect, the green downlighting and the placement of the pillars worked synonymously to create an effective courtyard setting where the young lovers (Tuptim and Lun Tha) meet throughout the show.
The cast was well-directed by Stuart Morgan. There was a beautiful blend of both comedic and dramatic moments, which demonstrated clear intent in each scene. While some transitions were a tad lengthy, they did not detract from the overall experience.
The music in ‘The King and I’ is beautiful and the performers, under the musical direction of Ann Sparks, did justice to such an iconic score. Kellie Wilson and Annie Fang who played Anna Leonowens and Tuptim respectively were the vocal standouts. Their powerful numbers emoted scenes with perfection.
Choreography by Natasha Stenta and Gemma Boucher was excellent, particularly in the ‘Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet’ in Act 2. They created a highly engaging piece which delighted audiences through the clever use of props and traditional movement to convey the story. The duet featuring Harmony Heathcote (as Eliza) and Tom Simpson (as the Angel) was especially impressive. It was wonderful to see that the children were included in this number also, as this is not customary in many productions of ‘The King and I’. It created a sense of inclusivity and community.
The show was very well cast and each performer presented an authentic version of their role. Malcom McKenzie, who played the King of Siam displayed impressive comic timing throughout the production.
Annie Fang who played Tuptim and Jian Peters as Lun Tha were convincing as the young lovers and their rendition of ‘I Have Dreamed’ in Act 2 was simply lovely. Also, impressive on stage was Rowena Orcullo Ryan (Lady Thiang), Flynn Anderson (Prince Chulalongkorn) and Flynn Nowlan (Louis Leonowens) who all gave committed performances.
Kellie Wilson as Anna Leonowens is outstanding. Perfectly cast in this role, you would be hard-pressed to find a better Anna anywhere – even on the Broadway stage. Wilson was an absolute delight to watch and portrayed a strong and vivacious Anna who was not afraid to speak her mind.
Gold Coast Little Theatre’s production of ‘The King and I’ oozes heart and features a selection of the talent the Gold Coast has to offer! The cast and creatives have delivered a show which not only entertains its audience, but educates them on ‘bridging the gap’ between different cultures. The themes presented in ‘The King and I’ are universal and timeless, making for both an entertaining and contemplative night at the theatre.
‘The King and I’ performs until Saturday, 7 December 2019, at The Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport. For more information and tickets, visit Gold Coast Little Theatre’s Website.