Rejoice. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s King of Siam is back and he’s better than ever. Andrew Hasegawa gives an all-out, runaway performance in Mac-Haydn’s production of “The King and I.”
It may even be better than the one you’re used to. The actor throws subtlety to the wind and yet there are moments when he gives the audience a nod to let them know that he knows exactly what he is doing. It is a thrilling performance. As a matter of fact, the entire production is a theatrical thrill.
Set in exotic Bangkok, the story chronicles the adventures of proper English schoolteacher Anna, played with equal amounts of zest and tenderness by Colleen Gallagher, as she attempts to tutor the king’s many wives and children in reading, writing and geography.
More importantly, it is a story about two people, very different in nature, who fall in love. It is a love, however, that neither is able to express.
The king is determined to modernize his country — he is thought to be a barbarian in some circles — and Anna is determined to help him. The new generation — by the end of the play the king has 77 children — will never be thought of as barbarians. They will be literate, intelligent rulers, as characterized most in the role of the Crown Prince played by Jack Mastrianni. This young man is a rising star.
In truth, the children of the king, with their shining-morning faces and their enthusiasm for their roles, make this production more than engaging. I wish I could name them all, but space does not permit. Suffice it to say that they are at the beginning of brilliant careers if they choose to go on in the theater.
Standing out among the members of the cast are Lisa Franklin as Lady Thiang. Franklin has a versatile and powerful voice and her rendition of “Something Wonderful,” which speaks to the king’s true, tender nature, is more than touching.
Tuptim, a young princess and a gift to the king, is played sweetly by Kelsey Self. Her performance of “My Lord and Master” is memorable.
This play includes many memorable moments, including a performance of the “Small House of Uncle Thomas.” We know the story better as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The gorgeous ballet stars Amanda Myers as Eliza; Meghan Glogower as Eva; Victoria Broadhurst as Topsy; Corey Masklee as Uncle Thomas; Andy Geary as George; and Darrin French as “Simon of Legree.” Choreographer and director Karla Shook must be commended for her staging.
Designers Scott Aronow (set), Jimm Halliday (costumes), and Andrew Gmoser (lighting) must also be commended. Everything just looks like Siam.
You may have a bit of difficulty at the beginning of the play, seeing all the milk-fed American faces, though the king is definitely Asian. But you’ll get over it. The play and this production are that good.