Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The King And I"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"The King And I"

Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by Richard Rodgers
Based on "Anna & The King of Siam" by Margaret Landon
Directed by Paul Farwell
Choreographed (after Jerome Robbins) by Patricia Strauss
Musical Director Michael Kreutz

Set Design by Ronald L. Dion
Costumes Designed by Richard Itczak, Val Verge & Molly Trainer
Lighting Design by Rick Shamel
Sound Design by Paul Farwell
Stage Manager Alex Savitsky

King..................................................................................................Joseph Siriani
Anna Leonowens............................................................................Wendy Heyman
The Kralahome................................................................................Michael Duarte
Lady Thiang............................................................................................Amy Allen
Tuptim..............................................................................................Caitlin McKay
Prince Chulalongkorn.............................................Matthew McGrath/Peter Shields
Louis Leonowens.........................................................Sean Jacobsen/Scott Chaloff
Captain Orton/Priest/Slave...................................................................Amish Amin
Phra Alak/Priest................................................................................Chris Moleske
Interpreter/Priest........................................................Jason Gaffney/Vassili Shields
Lun Tha.............................................................................................Craig Spaner
Sir Edward Ramsay..............................................................................Stuart Rose
Princess Ying Yaowalak.................................Shana Hausman/Erica Schonenberger
Slave...............................................................................................Felice Friedman
Princes & Princesses
Talia Bachman, Becky Baumwoll, Bianca Bratkon, John Cinotta, Kelsey Garvin, Ryan Garvin, Michelle Goldberg, Julia Hausman, Sophie Hornick, Julia Low, Samantha Mirror, Andrea Nahigian, Dominique Pasquarosa, Gino Pasquarosa, Elizabeth Seder, Derek Sacks, Monica Sheikholeslami, Molly Stern, Aaron Stern,
Zoe Stern, Harley Yanoff
Wives
Rachel Baum, Michelle Estrada, Teresa Huang, Tina Kim, Angela Mirror, Alexandra Nyberg, Martha Sides,
Julie Silverman, Jill Yanofsky
Priests
Jason Gaffney, Jeff Mahoney

"The Small House of Uncle Thomas"
Uncle Thomas......................Jason Gaffney
Little Eva.........................Andrea Nahigian
Little Topsy.....Julie Low/Becky Baumwoll
Eliza....................................Teresa Huang
Angel/George.............................Tina Kim
Simon of Legree................Julie Silverman
Dogs...........Jason Gaffney, Harley Yanoff
Chorus
Tina Kim, Ani Gregorian, Felice Friedman, Monica Sheikholeslami

Orchestra
Piano......................................................Michael Kreutz
Keyboard....................................................Wayne Ward
Woodwinds.....Carolyn Cantin, Bako polis, Keith Hundly
Bass...................Rob Goldman, Rob Orr, Dave Weisman
Drums/Percussion...................................Steve Jounakos


Since it's the first thing you'll see when visiting the Turtle Lane Players' excellent production of "The King And I" start with the best set Ronald L. Dion has put into that space in some time. Pink-marble walls inset with Moorish alcoves and decorated with those tall gilded cones that say "Siam" flank the massive teakwood gates of a palace that slowly swing open on a kingdom thrusting itself, hesitantly, into the modern western world. There is a high dais on which Joseph Siriani's King can strut, monarch of all he surveys, and pillows for this barefoot autocrat to lounge upon. Even the pair of palm-trees stage-left add to a spell which only grows more certain as the evening unfolds.

Next consider the sumptuously colorful saris and hoop-skirts on dozens of wives and children of all shapes and sizes. Richard Itczak had to have help from Val Verge and Molly Trainer to get them all onstage, all crisply diaphanous and radiantly, softly enfolding the soft Eastern flesh they contain. Despite their oriental decorum and deference, the cast and chorus is a bed of hothouse flowers.

The music is by lyrical Richard Rodgers, with the tightest book Oscar Hammerstein II ever constructed and a cascade of his unforgettable words. People will remember the King pondering foreign policy with "Is a Puzzlement" but it's a surprise to find his prince and young heir later reprising the very same song. The plot is Anna's teaching the children of the court --- and the King --- about the west, but inside it is the King learning what to teach his son, and Oscar Hammerstein teaching all of us about how to be humane.

This musical is from a time when singers simply stood-and-delivered, and there are points when Wendy Heyman as Anna, Joseph Siriani as the King, or Amy Allen as his understanding chief wife do just that, often with a crowded chorus merely listening. Rather than choreography, for the entire first act there is merely Director Paul D. Farwell's beautiful blocking and stage-pictures. Then the tumultuous second act explodes with Patricia Strauss' energetic re-staging of Jerome Robbins' intensely Eastern, athletic dance-parable "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" narrated by Caitlin McKay as the King's newest, most unhappy wife.

There is a restrained intensity to everything in this production, from the understated understanding both wives have for each other, to the haughty disdain of Michael Duarte's palace overseer and the growing assurance of the Prince --- who may be Matthew McGrath or Peter Shields the night you see the show. There is good singing, warmly tropical lighting from Rick Shamel, and a huge gaggle of kids so well behaved no one need shake a stick at any of them.

Siriani, in shaven head and naked feet, often alone on stage, is properly larger than life as this gruffly dogmatic, inwardly uncertain leader of his people. In his duel of wills with Heyman's independent Anna there is growing, grudging affection, and never a loss of face on either side. Why couldn't Oscar Hammerstein's balanced humanity have taught world politics all this little musical play has to offer?

Is a puzzlement!

Love,
===Anon.


"The King And I" (till 5 December)
TURTLE LANE PLAYERS
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON
1(617)244-0169

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