note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
The North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) in Beverly has struck oil again, this time with its lavish, resplendent production of “The King and I,” that closes Oct. 9. This two-act extravaganza in-the-round, helmed and exquisitely choreographed by super-talented Richard Stafford, is a royal banquet for the senses. Paula Peasley Ninestein has coordinated an array of magnificent glittering, eye-popping costumes, masks and headdresses, while Christopher Evans‘ sounds and Jack Mehler’s lighting enhance Erik D. Diaz’s effective sets.
This team glows during the ballet troupe and Manna Nichols’ gorgeous re-enactment of “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”).
Although Lorenzo Lamas, (son of handsome silver screen star, Fernando Lamas, and gorgeous actress-beauty queen, Arlene Dahl), is an outstanding talent in his own right, he isn’t your typical king of Siam (think Yul Brynner). He’s tall, dark, sleek, and handsome, strutting with a regal swagger, but his dark hair, large tattoos, and passable voice belie this larger-than-life character. ‘Tis a puzzlement, given Lamas has successfully portrayed this role before. He’s also a well-known TV, stage, screen actor, singer, producer, and director.
Lamas emerges more powerfully in the second act, interacting with leading lady, Kate Fisher as Anna Leonowens, strong-willed, widowed Englishwoman who comes to Siam with her young son, Louis, to teach English and western culture to some of the King’s 67 children (and quickly multiplying) and his wives. Anna also provides help with foreign correspondence, knowledge and advice.
Lamas and Fisher are surrounded by talented co-stars and a charming children’s ensemble.
The 10-piece orchestra, led by Conductor Craig Barna, is fantastic, opening with a stirring overture. The musicians are strong and splendid, especially in large ensemble numbers, such as “Getting to Know You,” but play softly enough to support solos and duets.
Fisher’s nostalgic rendition/reprise of “Hello, Young Lovers,” and Manna Nichols as Tuptim and Joshua Dela Cruz as her doomed young lover, Lun Tha, are sweetly romantic in “We Kiss in a Shadow,” and “I Have Dreamed”. Their chemistry is something wonderful. So is Lisa Yuen as the king’s no. 1 wife, Lady Thiang. Explaining to an agitated Anna her devotion to the king, Lady Thiang delivers a moving solo of “Something Wonderful”.
And the children - I mustn’t forget the children, who are especially delightful in their march before Anna and in “Getting to Know You”. Ellis Gage as heir apparent Prince Chulalongkorn and Giacomo Favazza as Anna’s son Louis are also spotlight-stealers. However, I wondered about two adorable little girls whose arms are interlocked as Siamese twins - whether they’re metaphoric.
Either way, from overture to finale, NSMT’s production of “The King and I” is dazzling.
BOX INFO: Two-act, award-winning, classic musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, starring Lorenzo Lamas, appearing through Oct. 9 at the North Shore Music Theatre, (NSMT), 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. Revere’s Brandon Barbosa, 9, performs with the children’s ensemble. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; matinees, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, at 2 p.m. Tickets,$36-$65. Visit www.nsmt.org, or the Box Office, or call 978-232-7200.