Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The King & I"

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entire contents copyright 2001 by Tony Annicone

"The King & I"

Tony Annicone

Theatre Works latest show is the musical version of "Anna and the King of Siam", "The King & I. One of Rodger and Hammerstein's best works, it is given a wonderful performance by 36 cast members directed by Mark Anderson, assisted by music director, Katie Estrella and her seven piece orchestra and choreographer, Jen Barrette (a pro who has worked at Theatre by the Sea and will be choreographing their version of this show this summer)

The two leads make the roles their own by imprinting their personal style on them. Kathy Donahue who has a magnificent voice not only sells her songs to the audience,"Hello, Young Lovers", "Shall We Dance", "Whistle a Happy Tune" and "Getting to Know You", she becomes this 1862 British schoolteacher. With a great British accent and incredible warmth she shows her love for the children. Kathy also displays the strength of Anna by standing up to the King in a strange new country. Her crying scenes are superb but she delivers the humorous side of the character, too. A very talented lady. Greg Bonin (who shaved his head for the role) is a very forceful monarch and he makes you forgetYul Brynner. He is charming and commanding at the same time. Greg has a fantastic singing voice which he uses in the very difficult "A Puzzlement Song" and in "Shall We Dance". The latter number done with Anna is always a crowd pleaser and was choreographed by Greg. He makes the King, human especially in the whipping scene and when he agrees to give Anna a house. The interaction between both characters makes the lowering of Anna's head scenes very funnyeven in the dying scene. Great job.

Connie Altimus, a fantastic comedienne shows us her dramatic side as Lady Thiang. She convinces Anna to return to the King with the gorgeous and moving, "Something, Wonderful". Connie moves the audience with her rendition of this number. She also has a funny song in Act II, "Western People Funny", to show the Oriental people find the British customs as strange as they find theirs. Coonie also leads the singing in the Uncle Thomas scene one of the most difficult musical numbers in this show doing it with ease.

Jessica Roch stepped into the role of Tuptim two weeks before opening night and handles the large role wonderfully. She has a gorgeous soprano voice which soars in "Lord and Master" and does an excellent job with the narration in the Uncle Tom sequence. Jessica also shows the pathos needed in the whipping scene. She and Elimelec Valentin who plays Lun Tha have the two prettiest ballads in the show, "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have Dreamed". They make you feel the pain of being unable to show their love for each other. He not only has a fantastic tenor voice but he is an excellent dancer as well. Elimelec dances as Uncle Thomas and Simon of Legree in the ballet showing he is a triple threat performer. Both he and Jessica have a bright future in show business with their huge talent. Bravo on a job well done.

The two boys who play the Prince and Louis are Eric Desnoyers and Alex Whitney. They do excellent acting work in their roles and move about the stage like pros.Eric plays the younger version of the future king who has been influenced by his teacher. He and Alex do a wonderful job on the reprise of "A Puzzlement", wondering why adults do the things they do. Alex sings well with Anna in the opening number, too.Remember their names because you'll be seeing them again and again. Three supporting characters who stand out are Auria Bacon who plays the Royal grandmother ( She has camptown races song and the "They will eat us line"-both the funniest in the show), Brian McGovern who plays Sir Edward Ramsey (Shows the warmth needed as an old friend of Anna and does a great British accent, too) and Cara-Lean Denecke who plays the fan dancer and Eliza in the Uncle Tom scene ( this girl dances up a storm especially in the long dance segment in the ballet being pursued by Simon and his men with trained bloodhounds.)

Rounding out the cast in other roles as wives, children and other people in the show are Mark Anderson (who also directed this enormous show very well) Marissa Bello, Karissa Carson, Allison Cournoyer, Crystal Desrosiers, Erica Fagan, Ashley Fino, Kaitlin Fontaine, LisaForsgard, Matt Gorgone, Megan Gryzbowski, Andrew and Sarah Hayden, Deanna and Laura Hewey, Chris Kibbe, Alicia Leclerc, Cathy Malathong, Mallory Moreau, Nicholas Oiveira, Petmany Rathsavong, Amelia Rayos, Kelly Ryan, Amy St. Pierre, Matt Simpson and Josh Smith. A word of praise to the children in the "Getting to Know You" and the prayer to Buddha scenes. Additional praise to music director Katie Estrella who makes the cast sound wonderful in their numbers. Costumer Sharon Charette and her crew who create many colorful and beautiful costumes to help bring the show to life. Jen Barrette who brings the show within a show about Uncle Tom to life with her inventive and brilliant choreography. And last but not least, the captain of the ship and the director of the show, Mark Anderson directs the other 35 people to make this a production to be proud of. Kudos to all who worked on "The King & I".

"The King & I" (till 18 March)
1(401) 766-1898

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide