Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The King and I - review

Newcastle Upon Tyne Musical Theatre Company
Theatre Royal Newcastle
13 September 2010

Siam 1860, not the most democratic country in the world.
Not a country that I would like one of my female relatives or friends to head off on their own, but that is what Anna Leonowens did. She answered a plea from Phra Meha Mongut, the ‘brutish’ King of Siam to become a governess and teach his many children the wonders and ways of the world. In truth she looked after ‘him’ a damn sight more.
What you have with this familiar and lively Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is a tale of religion, conservatism and differing morals - all brought together with song, music and dance.

What the Newcastle Upon Tyne Musical Theatre Company have brought us tonight is a lavish and colourful performance that in my opinion was totally flawless from start to finish. First night nerves can get the better of most performers but I witnessed none of that. Total hard work and grit from the whole cast has made this a very memorable stage play. Stage design was fantastic and all moved seamlessly from act to act. The surrounding of the Grade I listed building morphed together very well with the plushness of the Palace on stage and I could almost imagine sitting in congress with the regency of the day.
Stirring songs such as the unforgettable “I whistle a happy tune”, “Getting to know you” and “Shall we dance” were all sung brilliantly by Helen Cash(Anna)-who in my honest opinion not only stole the show, but on evidence of her performance tonight should be gracing the stages of the West End of London.
Stephen Mason portrayed the ‘king’ with majestical  presence and his brutism was only in the script.
Notable mentions for Shireen Hamlani as ‘Lady Thiang’ and Katy Bowler as ‘Tuptim’, who sang and danced to perfection. The children, Ladies of the Chorus and Gentlemen of the Chorus were all in impressive voice, complimentent by a dazzling score led by Musical Director Michael Lamb.

My highlight of the show was the Chinese Ballet scenes of “Uncle Toms Cabin” which showed off the brilliant choreography of Vicki Richardson, the colours and movements were just out of this world!
It was ‘simply stunning’.
On the web page of the theatre announcing this play, there is a caveat that states this is an ‘amateur production’, well in my opinion this was the most ‘professional’ amateur staging that I have seen in a long time. Directors Ken Allan and Pauleen Gilbert certainly know what they are doing and gave this a massive ‘WOW’ factor that had the audience clamming for more. It was fantastic to see the crowd dispersing with a smile.
The king and I cannot be missed...It is a must see.

The King and I is performed from the 13th to the 18th September every night at 7pm with matinee performances on the 14th and 18th at 2pm, priced at £18.

Michael Hunter
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