Saturday, 12 July 2014

The King and I, with Lou Diamond Phillips, July 11, 2014 ***1/2

Music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on novel by Margaret Langdon
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, until August 31, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
I reviewed the production with Lou Diamond Phillips in the role. This 2nd review also ran online on Monday July 14, in Herald Sun nd in print thereafter )possibly 15 July). KH.
Lisa McCune & Lou Diamond Phillips in The King and I-Photos by Oliver Toth

There’s a new King of Siam in town and it is Lou Diamond Phillips who brings his own style of deliciously playful and boastful posturing to the role.

Phillips, who recently replaced the injured Jason Scott Lee, paces the stage like a prowling lion, portraying this man-child King with a sassy edginess and volatility that makes the character more than a little sexy and dangerous.

It is easy to understand the sensual frisson between Mrs. Anna (Lisa McCune) and the King because Phillips’ King is lovable despite, but also because of, his swaggering arrogance and vanity.

McCune is elegant and warm as Anna Leonowens, the English schoolteacher that the King invites to educate his family in English language and customs.

Their mutual attraction is tangible when the King and Anna dance a lively polka during Shall We Dance?

Phillips’ versatility is evident in the contrast between his clever, comic delivery and the moving final scene when the King is weakened by illness.

McCune’s voice is bright and tuneful when singing Whistle A Happy Tune and Getting to Know You, and the poignant ballad, Hello, Young Lovers.

The King’s children steal the stage during The March of the Siamese Children, Shu-Cheen Yu’s voice is thrilling when singing Something Wonderful as Lady Thiang, and Jerome Robbins’ original choreography is stunning.

Christopher Renshaw’s production is cheerful, vivid and opulent, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music is timeless and this show is still ‘bright and breezy’ with its injection of Phillips’ virile King.
By Kate Herbert

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