The beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, The King and I, has returned to the UK for another national tour. Starring Call the Midwife star, Helen George as Anna, is this production ‘Something Wonderful’ or ‘A Puzzlement’?

Credit: Johan Persson

The story tells that tale of a British school teacher who is hired as part of the King’s drive to modernise his country. Throughout the production we see her build relationships with the people around her, especially the King and his children.

The plot of the show, like most classic tales, is rather subdued. The story takes a while to begin properly as the show tries to introduce all its characters, and in turn giving most of them a solo to express their thoughts. This use of music to express a single moment slows down the plot, especially in the first act. While Act 1 takes some time to get to the more interesting plot points which develop the story, Act 2 is very confusing in its pacing. We stop the plot for around 10 minutes for ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’, a play set within the production, and then the final part of the show adds many different twists, turns, and developments which increases the pace, almost giving the audience whiplash.

The plot could’ve delved much further into the points it makes towards the end, showing the struggles of being King, showing the King’s relationship with his children, especially his son who is heir to the throne. Anna’s son, Louis, feels a pointless addition to the story, as his presence adds nothing to the plot or to Anna’s character.

Where the writing of the show does flourish is in its humour. The King and I has many very good laughs in its scenes and songs, especially with the King, played by Darren Lee. Lee steals every scene and perfectly balances the powerful man that the King was with the comedic idiot he becomes when he’s around Anna. His lines are some of the best in the show, with running gags such as the extra use of “etcetera, etcetera” and always having to be above everyone else. He makes the King fun to watch, and he becomes an instant favourite of the audience. Helen George as Anna also gives a good comedic performance, especially in her scenes with Lee. The two have clear stage chemistry, and the playful banter between the two feels natural and is easy to follow. Whereas George is not known for her singing, she does have a nice voice, especially considering that the singing in this show is very technical. She may not be the strongest in the cast, but she is certainly cannot be considered stunt casting. She did fumble on quite a few of lines in the show which diminished some of the jokes she delivered. But overall, her performance is very strong, particularly in her rendition of ‘Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?’ which was a lively, bold, comedic moment and one of the highlights of the show.

Credit: Johan Persson

Honorable mentions must go to Cezarah Bonner as Lady Thang. Her performance was extremely moving as she acted all the complex and conflicting emotions of her character. She truly steals the attention of many scenes, and her vocals are spectacular. Another vocal standout is Marienella Phillips as Tuptim. She possesses one of the strongest voices in the cast and when combined with Dean John-Wilson as Lun Tha the result is gorgeous, especially in ‘ I Have Dreamed’.

Overall, the production is an entertaining watch, perfect for the old-school fans of musicals. The plot could have been developed further, however the cast make up for this with their talent.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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