Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote THE KING AND I for Gertrude Lawrence. The search for a leading man was solved by a suggestion from Mary Martin of her costar in Lute Song. Yul Brynner was the King in the original and in many revivals. It led to a Tony and an Oscar for the role. It is a daunting task to take on a part so identified with a special actor. Local stage veteran Clark Van Hekken did a remarkable job in this demanding role. His voice is resonant and his stage presence is admirable.As Anna, Diane Carman sings very well. She is at her best in Getting to Know You and Shall I Tell You What I Think of You. Both numbers were well staged and her smile in Getting to Know You lit up the stage. She has the style to wear the hoop skirts and gowns of the 1860’s with panache.
The voices of both Heather McConnell and Steve Burke as the young lovers, Tuptim and Lun Tha, were super and blended well. The whole cast did justice to the terrific R & H score.
What a pleasant surprise it was to have the usually forgotten role of Lady Thiang so beautifully realized by Catherine Ard. She was spot on both in vocal and acting areas. I loved her Something Wonderful.
The choreographic highlight Small House of Uncle Thomas was exceptional. Sally Rothschild had her people well rehearsed and in the Siamese style that the audience appreciated. Special kudos are due the children who provided much of the percussion for the sequence.
The set was simple but worked well. But– the costumes—Ah the costumes. Didi McFarland and Cassandra Morabito designed a visual treat for the show. They were simply gorgeous.
The orchestra under the direction of Music Director Christopher Burgher was a good accompaniment to the singers. They showed the result of many rehearsals. The brass section was super.
Director Dr. Lawrence Anderson moved the show along with a constant flow. Even so, the show is long at slightly over three hours. I was impressed with his touches such as having The King, Anna and a visiting British diplomat sit at the back of the auditorium at dinner to view the Small House dance; and his welcome use of cover scenes to keep the pace up.
The King of Prussia Players can be justifiably proud of their production of the classic piece of show business that is THE KING AND I. Give yourself a treat and go see it.
THE KING AND I
by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Dr. Lawrence Anderson/
July 15-30, 2011
King of Prussia Players
Shannondell Performing Arts Center
10000 Shannondell Drive
Audubon PA 19403