The Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic ‘The King and I’ was resurrected by First Instinct Productions and concluded the first leg of staging at NAPA, Port-of-Spain this past Sunday. The musical tells the story of a British schoolteacher who has been brought to Siam (ancient Thailand) as part of the King’s general plan for bringing to Siam what is good in Western culture. What ensues was a humorous clash of cultures. Also, with enough sexism to make the modern woman cringe, the play is cheeky critique of women’s oppression, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…
Authenticity is the hallmark of this revival of ‘The King and I’. This bona fide feeling was established by a production, which adheres faithfully to original script. Having been trained by a Siamese dialect coach, the actors spoke convincingly in Siamese-English tongue. The beautifully designed sets and costumes enveloped audiences in this Siamese fantasy. The use of the steelpan in the musical instrumentation, although deftly employed, was the only reminder of its Trinidad staging. This is a musical after all and there is no shortage of talent on and off the stage.
The musical talent was underscored by the superb performances of the cast and musicians. Tova Miller (Anna Leonowens) shone, delivering pore raising vocal performances with grace and ease. Not to be out done was Conrad Parris (The King) who stood his ground in the face of this difficult woman. Patti-Anne Ali (Lady Thiang) also put forward noteworthy performances. However, I was most impressed by young star Jonathan Blaize (Louis Leonowens) who proved that he could perform with the best of them. Hidden away in the orchestra pit was Musical Director, Lorraine Granderson who (with Gregory Wong Fo Sue) arranged the production’s beautiful scores. Accompanying musicians included the members of the Defence Force Band as well as the Bishop Anstey High School Choir and Steel Ensemble and the Q.R.C. Chorale.
This First Instinct Production offers something for everyone. Theatre buffs would appreciate the excellent blocking and direction by Raymond Choo Kong, and cleaver use of lighting by Bente Lashley which enhanced the overall spectacle. Dance aficionados will not be disappointed either, thanks to efforts of choreographer Abeo Jackson and her dance consultant , Dr. Satnarine Balkaransingh. Families could look forward to a wholesome and timeless story.
The King and I is scheduled to play Thursday 16th- Saturday 18th May 2013 at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando and Thursday 30th May- Sunday 2nd June 2013, Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain where it concludes its national tour.