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Muny Review: "The King and I" * * * * Since it was first performed at The Muny in 1955, "The King and I" has become one of their all-time favorites and most requested productions. This week's show marks the 11th time it has been done at The Muny, and why not? The show has all the elements of a Muny classic - a score by Rodgers & Hammerstein, a timeless story of friendship and love, a broad sweep of color & choreography and kids, lots of kids.
Leslie Denniston returns for her third engagement as Anna and she is excellent as the widowed English school teacher trying to find a future for her and her son. Frances Jue is the King and he is a special choice for that role. Somewhat smaller than many men who have performed the role, Jue still has a powerful on-stage presence and strong voice. More than that, he is able to put across the King's vulnerability in a most effective and authentic manner. The chemistry between Jue and Denniston grows as the show moves on, and in the final scene as the King is on his death bed, you could hear more than a few little sobs from patrons thoroughly won over by the peformances of Denniston and Jue.
In supporting roles, Reveka Mavrovitis as Lady Thiang, Paolo Montalban as Lun Tha and Andrea Burns, who was a show-stopper last season as Maria in "West Side Story," all sing beautifully in this company and each is a standout. There were some slow changes and a handful of muffed lines on opening night, but overall this ambitious production was executed in a smooth flow and showcased costumes that were among the best ever used at The Muny for any show. This production's choreographer is the legendary Gemze de Lappe, who over the years has brought some exceptional choreography to The Muny.
The Muny's Executive Producer, Paul Blake, directs this company with an eye towards selling the show's enormous scope and personal stories, and he succeeds on both points. "The King and I" runs about 3 hours with one intermission. It marks an outstanding start to The Muny's 88th season in beautiful Forest Park. Opening night attendance was in excess of 9,000 people. Opening Monday June 26, the Muny premiere of "Aida."
Paolo Montalban website: http://www.ePaolo.com