11/2/2019 0 Comments
I’d never seen The King and I let alone read the book Anna and The King of Siam but thankfully I rode the waves of this musical masterpiece at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Following its critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit run and a sold-out record-breaking season at the London Palladium, the multi Tony Award-winning production of The King and I has landed at Leeds Grand Theatre and is playing until Saturday 9 November 2019.
The King and I at Leeds Grand Theatre - Review
We are immediately transported to Thailand with Anna Leonowens and her son who arrive on a ship to teach the King of Siam’s many wives and children.
There were echoes of my own grandmother’s journey when she arrived in the Far East after a three week journey to live with my grandfather in Malaysia.
Anna and her son’s accents and attire immediately stand out in stark contrast to those living inside the kings Bangkok based palace.
Anna is in many ways a strong feminist who takes us all under her wing as she challenges the treatment of women as subservients.
Anna, played by Annalene Beechey, seamlessly embodies a feisty but loveable character who conforms just enough to win the king over and yet she still manages to stand her ground between what she believes to be right and wrong.
The King, played brilliantly by Jose Llana, who first appears ruthless but throughout the show he draws us in with his comical facial expressions and his willingness to take on Anna’s “guesses” i.e, advice about what he should do to woo the West who had dubbed him a “barbarian.”
Interestingly, the King had actually employed Anna to help modernise his kingdom. Whilst he's a polygamist, he is not necessarily barbaric.
Anna and the king begin to bond as they prepare to put on a western style greeting for a British envoy who come to assess the situation in Siam. Part of this is dressing the King's wives in large circle skirts which shows a clash of cultures as the women struggle to move in such clothing.
At times you feel uncomfortable as westernising everything about the East isn’t necessarily making it more “civilised” just more western.
But this contrast evolves into a fusion of two cultures. Anna and the King's relationship starts to blossom as they work together to impress the envoy.
Part of the visit is a show by servant Tuptim who is involved in her own secret love story. She manages to put on a play called the Small House of Uncle Thomas. It's a brilliantly choreographed piece of narrated dance with stunning costumes.
Whilst the show impresses the guests, the king is furious at Tuptim as the show tells the story of a servant fleeing a King and Buddha saves them but melts the river so the King drowns.
Tuptim then flees to be with her own lover.
Anna and the King continue to bond but refuse to admit their love, even as the King requests Anna to show him how to dance.
But the pair then dramatically clash as Tuptim is captured and brought back to the palace to be whipped whilst her lover is found to be dead.
Anna vows to leave Siam and prepares to board a ship leaving Siam with her son. But she is stopped in her tracks as she receives a letter from the King who is dying.
The pair reconcile in a touching yet comical way as the King communicates with Anna from his death bed. His last wishes are for his son to take the role of King and Anna to stay to help him.
The ending offers hope for the future and shows the kingdom's willingness to change.
The show is beautifully choreographed and the live Orchestra adds to the richness of this endearing show. Make sure you head to Leeds Grand Theatre before it departs.
The official lowdown
Directed by Bartlett Sher and produced by the celebrated creative team that brought the production to the Palladium.
Performing as Anna, fresh from her West End success, is Annalene Beechey, and reprising his critically acclaimed Broadway performance as The King is Jose Llana. The two stars have been wowing audiences since the musical embarked on its international tour earlier this year. Annalene said: “I absolutely love playing Anna, she is a dream role for any actress. I’m delighted to bring this wonderful production and our glorious King to Yorkshire!”
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical boasts one of the finest scores ever written, including Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance, and features a company of over 50 world-class performers with full-scale orchestra; The King and I is a testament to the lavish heritage of gloriously romantic musical theatre.
The King and I is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 29 October to Saturday 9 November 2019
Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700
Blog Up North Influencers
Blog Up North champions the north of England through its online magazine and its influencer network, connecting brands and businesses with some of the best northern influencers.
The North of England boasts some of the best places to go all year round. There'll be an experience that exceeds your expectations.
If you can't find what you're looking for, please do contact us or tweet us @bloggerupnorth.
We also welcome guest posts if you have an area of expertise that will help promote the North of England.