note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Turtle Lane Playhouse is presenting a charming, small scale THE KING AND I (through Dec. 16th) which turns out to be quite sweet. This king, you see, is very youthful and more vulnerable than most. Director Kristin Hughes’ take on the material is quite refreshing. When Michael Hsiao Botte sings about his royal doubts in “A Puzzlement,” we believe he’s conflicted. Most actors are so far over the macho top as the king that the song is simply funny. Hughes also breaks from other productions by presenting a historically accurate inner court, female guards and all.
Now when Mrs. Anna (Yolanda Farina) takes him under her British wing, it’s almost motherly. The two have a lovely relationship which, when it’s strained, makes us truly feel for them both. This shift affords the secondary plot more substance, as well. Katherine Sandoval-Taylor and Lucky Rattan are charismatic young lovers and their fate now packs much more of a punch to the story. Pia Mena, as Lady Thiang, too, has the most defining song in the show, now, the exquisite “Something Wonderful.”
Of course, everyone’s favorite “Shall We Dance” remains the highlight of the musical, with Botte and Farina in top form, at last able to enjoy each other, if only for a moment. And Farina and Nicholas Schur have a grand time whistling “A Happy Tune.”
Karen Fogerty’s “joining hands” choreography for Anna and the children is certainly a delight but I missed the traditional curved back hand movement in the Uncle Tom’s Cabin ballet. Jamie Feinberg’s orchestra and singers are first rate as are Richard Itczak’s sumptuous costumes. Richard Danehy’s court set is remarkably versatile, lit in golden tones by John MacKenzie. If you’ve never seen the Rogers and Hammerstein musical (and even if you have) the Turtle Lane’s intimate production will warm your heart this cold winter.