In many respects, “The King and I” is the perfect finale production for any Muny Season. It soars with songs, some amongst the most memorable of any Rodgers & Hammerstein collaboration. This week, there are 33 pieces in the Muny orchestra to maximize the music. Sensitive and intuitive Musical Direction by Brad Haak is as close to flawless as you can get.
Kevin Gray, a very talented Broadway veteran of this show, appears as The King of Siam. The beautiful Laura Michelle Kelly is Anna, the English widow who comes to Siam to tutor the King’s many offsprings. While both Gray and Kelly do well, the show gets off to a sluggish start and the chemistry between the two characters doesn’t really seem authentic until Act II.
The Muny’s has designed an opulent, expansive set with a golden hue. Costumes obtained from the Atlanta Theater of the Stars, with refinements by The Muny’s outstanding costume department, make this “King and I” a beautiful sight to behold. Stephanie Park as Tuptim and Joshua Dela Cruz as Lun Tha, the star-crossed young lovers, give spectacular voice to “We Kiss in the Shadows” and “I Have Dreamed.” Joan Almedilla is a near show-stopper when she sings “Something Wonderful.”
“The Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet in Act II is wonderfully done.
There was a small lighting glitch behind the scenery booms which allowed the audience to sometimes see stage hands and ensemble members moving set pieces. I’m confident that will be fixed and the connection between Gray as The King and Kelly as Anna will hit its stride as the week goes on. Director Rob Ruggiero has a lot of love and respect for production, and you call sense that as the show progresses. This is the 11th time The Muny has presented “The King and I.” In many respects, it really is the orignal music of the night.