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‘The King and I’ at the Wales Millennium Centre review

Rogers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is a splendid rendition of Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam.

It is fantastic to see this classic brought to life on the stage. Those familiar with the story, will no doubt recall popular song classics Getting to Know You and I Whistle a Happy Tune from the 1950s film version, something which you’ll be glad to know features in this production.

Credit: Johan Persson

Did you know, The King and I is based on a true story? The novel by Margaret Landon’s derives from memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The underlining story is about the clash of traditional and modern societies coming together out of the first industrial revolution (watch closely for the subtle references).

For those of you that have watched the film, it is quite remarkable how close the stage production resembles it. When a classic such as this is transformed into new surroundings, there will always be a degree of skepticism, with many having watched the original, left wondering if the remake lives up to expectations – and it does, more than.

The emotions encountered in The King and I by all characters really draw you in, allowing you to experience their journey along with them. Something I would always argue is difficult to achieve in film, so you do really get to experience something special at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Credit: Johan Persson

Considering the story echos the role and power of man in civilisation, the female characters stood out much greater. The arrival of Anna (Ms Maria Coyne) and Louis (Joseph Black) alone on board a boat in what would seem a strange country, and Tup Tim’s (Ms Jessica Gomes-Ng) own story that foreshadows how the story ends.

All of the costumes were absolutely fantastic, it is easy to see where the use of 2,500 metres of fabric went. The contrast in colours really highlighted their use in different cultures, such as the monochrome of Anna\Louis vs the colourful costumes of the so called barbaric king of Siam (Jose Llana) and his family.

Credit: Johan Persson

The royal children (Kaitlyn Kou, Emily Hill, Aran Forest, Christopher Nguyen, Annabella Ting Chi Man) really stood out as stars of the show. However, the small number used on stage didn’t quite convey the king’s large family of 70 plus children.

Although this isn’t a comedy, it does have a degree of comedic value, especially when the king would poke fun at the British values of the time.

What we really enjoyed was the play within a play, the small house of uncle Thomas. It was an absolute hit with the audience. It was step by step like just in the film, an absolute classic.

The King and I runs at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday January 18 2020. You can buy tickets here.