The King and I Review from TimeOFF
Thanks to Dan for this information!
 
'The King and I'


By: Stuart Duncan, TimeOFF      April 10, 2002


Papermill Playhouse stages this famous Rodgers and 
Hammerstein musical.
   It's hard to believe that you could muck up a show as lush 
and beautiful as The King and I, but Paper Mill Playhouse 
has tried hard.
   Most theater historians will tell you the source for the 
Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was Margaret 
Landon's novel Anna and The King of Siam, which was 
made into a black-and-white musical starring Rex Harrison 
and Irene Dunne. In fact, Ms. Landon's book was itself 
based on The English Governess at the Siamese Court, 
written in the 1860s by the actual Anna Leonowens herself. 
And Gertrude Lawrence, who originated the role of Anna on 
Broadway and brought it to the attention of Richard Rodgers 
and Oscar Hammerstein, had read the biography, not the 
novel.
   At the out-of-town opening in New Haven, Conn., it was 
realized the show was running too long, so much was 
trimmed and tightened. At the same time, three songs were 
added, including one that Miss Lawrence had insisted on  
"Getting To Know You," an opportunity for her to sing with the 
children. It became a genuine showstopper. Incidentally, the 
tune had earlier been cut from South Pacific.
   For anyone who saw the original production  with Miss 
Lawrence paired with Yul Brynner  the memory still lingers 
(I am one of those lucky ones), but Paper Mill has a pretty 
fair Anna in Carolee Carmello. She has a gorgeous voice, 
carries herself like the proper ladies of that era, has a stage 
warmth that is clearly special and is still able to rage at the 
King.
   Sadly, however, Kevin Gray plays the King as if he 
expected someone to play the ace. He never sets his 
performance, wandering from an imitation of Brynner at 
times to an effete young brat at others.
   Margaret Ann Gates, as Tuptim, and Paolo Montalban as 
her secret lover, Lun Tha, try hard to pick up the pieces. 
Their two duets  "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have 
Dreamed," one of the three tunes added in New Haven  
are standouts.
   Sandia Ang, as Lady Thiang, has a lovely voice but not 
much sense of her character.
   You may not remember that it was Miss Lawrence who 
discovered Brynner at a television studio where he directed 
some plays. He auditioned for the role by accompanying 
himself on the guitar and singing gypsy songs. The role of 
the King made him an overnight star.
   During the run, Gertrude Lawrence became fatally stricken 
with cancer. When she went to the hospital, she insisted to 
the producers that Constance Carpenter take over her role. 
Later, when the show was turned into a movie, Brynner 
played the role and co-starred with Deborah Kerr. Her 
songs were dubbed in.
   Directed by Mark S. Hoebee, the Paper Mill production 
rests eventually with the creative technical staff: set designer 
Michael Anania, lighting designer F. Mitchell Dana and 
costume designer Roger Kirk. All come through 
magnificently.
   But without a King, it's hard to produce a royal flush. 

The King and I continues at Paper Mill Playhouse, 
Brookside Drive, Millburn, through May 19. Performances: 
Wed.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 2:30, 8 p.m.; Sun. 2, 7:30 p.m. Tickets 
cost $29-$59. For information, call (973) 376-4343. On the 
Web: www.papermill.org