Theater Review: ‘The King and I’

Ben Miles

Although “The King and I” isn’t a reference to the coronation of king Charles and his wayward spare, Harry; it is inspired by the true story upon which Margaret Landon premised her 1944 semi-fictionalized novel, “Anna and the King.”

“The King and I” premiered in 1951 and won the 1952 Tony Award for best musical; it was later made into a film staring Deborah Kerr as Anna and Yul Brynner as the King of Siam. With music by Richard Rogers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein lll. The show is ornamentally beautiful with song, dance and a story to match. This was true in both its Broadway and film incarnations and it holds true in its current staging at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Given lovely, perfectly timed direction by Glenn Casale, whose vision is complimented by Rumi Oyama’s choreography and beautifully enhanced by Catherine Zuber’s recapitulation of the original costume designs, as well as Michael Yeargan’s replication of the show’s original set design. Hair designs, shifting lighting motifs and sound design, by Kaitlin Yagen and Madison Medrano, Steven Young and Cricket S. Myers, respectively, all add beauty and believability to this comedy/drama musical and delightful lesson in history and stereotyping.

The time is 1862. The United States is in civil war and England is the world’s imperial power. Anna (consummately performed by Anastasia Barzee) is a grieving widow who travels with her preteen son, Louis ( a credible Oliver Stewart) to serve as a teacher to the King’s children, of which he has fathered nearly 70 ( the King is played wholeheartedly by Paul Nakauchi).

Much to Ann’s disappointment, the King has made promises that he doesn’t uphold such as a house for Anna and Oliver to reside in after her day’s duties are done.

The King claims that he has no recollection of such a promise and insists that Anna and Oliver live in the palace. After all, what could be a better living arrangement than life in the royal palace?

With laughter tears, song and dance “The king and I” is a wise and remarkable piece of the American theater. At over 2-1/2 hours there’s not a minute that goes to waste.

With a charming ensemble and memorable tunes such as “Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance” (musical direction of a 15 piece orchestra by Dennis Castellano), which have become song book standards, “The King and I” is among the best musical theater creations ever to land on stage.

Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd.

When: Thursdays through Sundays, through May 14

How: Reservations and further information at LaMiradaTheatre.com or call (562) 944-9801.

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