Thursday, 21 April 2016

Broadway Review: The King & I starring Kelli O'Hara & Ken Watanabe

The King & I
Lincoln Center (Vivian Beaumont Theater)
Reviewed on Friday 25th March 2016

Bartlett Sher's Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King & I sits beautifully at the Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The show, which was last seen in the West End at the Palladium in 2000, follows a British schoolteacher's unexpected relationship with the King of Siam.

The chemistry between Anna and the King is vital to the show's success - at first their strong personalities collide sensationally before they form a unique connection. I was lucky enough to catch this production's original stars Kelli O'Hara and Ken Watanabe in the leading roles roles; Watanabe had returned to the show for O'Hara's final few weeks. Their pairing worked a treat, sparks flew and their chemistry was spot on.

Featuring numbers such as 'Getting to Know You', 'I Whistle a Happy Tune' and Shall We Dance?', it's easy to forget just how many iconic songs feature in Rodgers and Hammerstein's  beautiful score. The orchestra - sat beneath the stage but visible before the show and during the interval - sounded absolutely divine and were without doubt the true stars of the show.

It was such a privilege to see Kelli O'Hara back on Broadway. She makes the perfect Anna with her performance being tender and sweet but also ballsy and very funny. Unsurprisingly O'Hara's voice glides over the score effortlessly, she is an absolute star. 

If the rumours are true, O'Hara could be set to reprise her performance in London. It would be such a treat to see O'Hara make her long-overdue West End debut, although she would need to work on perfecting her British accent. Ken Watanabe was also sensational; his performance is strong willed, but also a little vulnerable which makes the character strangely endearing. 

I still can't get over how breathtakingly lavish Michael Yeargan's design is. The audience are curved around the stage; at first the orchestra are in the middle, but when the show begins the stage extends out over them. It's so effective - if The King & I were to come to London it would work best in the New London Theatre, it would be a shame to see it scaled back to proscenium arch.

Sher's production is the perfect example of how a revival should be staged. Every element of the show is absolutely stunning. An excellent production of a classic musical.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The King & I plays at the Lincoln Center (Vivian Beaumont Theater).
Please visit for information and tickets.

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