There are so many amazing shows coming out of Broadway the past few years, yet a hunger for the classics remains. Fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately), there is always the good old Broadway revival…and where there is a lineup of revivals, you are sure to find a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show in the mix. Luck for San Jose theater patrons, one of those classics, THE KING AND I is making a stop in San Jose now through January 28th at San Jose’s Center for Performing Arts.
THE KING AND I is the story of an unlikely friendship and bond formed between two very different characters. The King of Siam, fearing that his country will succumb to Western pressures, hires an English governess to teach his children and many wives the Western ways so that they can better interact with the changing world. I can imagine that when THE KING AND I made its Broadway debut 65 years ago, it was quite progressive in addressing polygamy, slavery, sexism, feminism and authoritarianism head on.
Many years (and 4 revivals) later, some of the shows elements such as the idea of British imperialist superiority, the overt sexism and assertion that dominance over women is necessary for power and the way Eastern culture is fetishized remain as cringe worthy as ever. With this recent revival however, it is only the most positive elements of the original, the central themes of understanding, loyalty, love and friendship that shine through. People who have always loved THE KING AND I will not be disappointed. The story is as moving as it ever was. For people who never liked it, I encourage you to get to know the story through this latest production.
Aside from a moving story THE KING AND I also benefits from an extraordinarily strong cast. From start to finish, this talented ensemble was remarkable.
It is no doubt hard to play a role so fully owned by Broadway legend Yul Brynner, but Bay Area native Brian Rivera was equal parts powerful, intense, tender and funny as the King of Siam.
Laura Michelle Kelly was a magnificent Anna Leonowens, the strong and feisty governess, who refused to “serve” the King. Hired to teach the family western ways, her lessons and impact on the family (and especially the King) were much greater. If you closed your eyes while she sang, you would swear you were listening to Julie Andrews.
Joan Almedilla took my breath away and had the audience moved to applause after every song. She is an accomplished performer and is shows in every song she sings.
Whether you have loved THE KING AND I over the years, or the story is new to you, this recent revival will not disappoint. The set and staging are sublime, the cast is extraordinary and the themes of human desire for love, belonging and respect highlight how THE KING AND I has survived the test of time.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I, presented by Broadway San Jose and is playing now through February 28th. Tickets are available at priced from $48 – $128 at www.broadwaysanjose.com or at the box office located at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.) or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).