"simply a joy to watch"

"an opulent production"
-The Stage-

"looks and sounds ravishing"
-The Daily Telegraph-

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"An unquestionably stunning revival"

Critic Rating

27 June 2018, London Palladium
Susannah Martin Susannah Martin
After a Tony Award-winning stint on Broadway, Bartlett Sher’s revival of glorious Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I settles into the London Palladium, cementing its staying power amongst the greatest musicals of all time.

There’s much to celebrate with this Broadway transfer, which features Hollywood star Ken Watanabe and theatre legend Kelli O’Hara as the King of Siam and straight-talking schoolteacher Anna. Their performances alone are enough of a draw, and the pair prove an electric couple, with comedic and romantic chemistry that sets the stage alight. And whilst Watanabe may not be a singer, O’Hara’s divine voice is built for the sumptuous score, and soars right into the rafters of the auditorium.

Na-Young Jeon gives a notable performance too, as the sweet and fearless Tuptim, with a velvet-voiced Dean John-Wilson impressing yet again. Naoko Mori is a stoic Lady Thiang, and the ensemble is magnificent across the board, perfectly executing Christopher Gattelli revival of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography, and providing some sincere magic.

It’s slightly haunting that Hammerstein’s book is still so pertinent, and that the questionable racial politics are so frivolously dealt with; as Anna arrives in Siam she makes her intentions clear – she was promised a house in return for her work, and she deserves one. Not only does she fiercely stand up for herself, but she stands up for the women around her and justly fights throughout for equality. Considering the musical was first performed in the 50’s, it’s disappointing that we still fight the same battles now.

Of course, the King of Siam’s dictatorship reflects the monstrosity of Trump’s reign, with the suggestion of a wall being built met with a visceral audience reaction. But amongst the social and political jibes and references, there’s a lot of genuine beauty– the tale of The Small House of Uncle Thomas is particularly stunning, with the mesmerising choreography impressing yet again. An unquestionably stunning revival.

Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.

Daisy Bowie-Sell
There are uncomfortable moments in The King and I, of course there are. But this is undeniably a beautiful revival, created with care, respect and skill and as a result, it is mostly simply a joy to watch.
The Stage
And when you look at the magnificent ensemble on stage two things become very apparent: East Asian actors are disgracefully underrepresented on West End stages, and any excuse about the talent not being there is rubbish.
Dominic Cavendish
In short, the whole affair offers a satisfying blend of bombast and subtlety. Many of the songs remain transcendently lovely, chief among them I Whistle a Happy Tune, Hello, Young Lovers, Getting to Know You, and that invitation to madly polka Shall We Dance?.
Paul Taylor
As Anna, Kelli O'Hara, with her gorgeous shimmering soprano and aura of witty, uncloying goodness, reinvigorates The King and I.
Michael Billington
Even if I never felt there was much kinship between the story’s dual protagonists, O’Hara, who won a Tony award for her performance, is a delight.
Andrzej Lukowski
It is an often fairly amusing production, which perhaps blunts the eventual tragedy a little, but also takes the edge off some more problematic moments.