Thanks to Lisa for this information!
From the Star-Ledger

Mrs. Anna saves Paper Mill's 'King' 

Monday, April 08, 2002

Star-Ledger Staff 
Terrible "King." Wonderful "I." 

Luckily for Paper Mill Playhouse theatergoers, when Rodgers and 
Hammerstein wrote "The King and I," they gave British 
schoolteacher Anna Leonowens much more time on stage than the 
Siamese monarch. Carolee Carmello is incandescent in the role, 
in a performance that must be seen. 
Carmello gives Anna the authority and finesse of a diplomat, 
which the character certainly needs. A "mere" woman in the 19th 
century had to tread lightly when advising a foreign potentate 
who wanted her help but was too proud to ask for it. We could 
use someone like Carmello in Washington. 

And yet, every now and then, when the King gets the better of 
her through wordplay or logic, Carmello shows the right level of 
amusement -- when he does it fairly, that is. During the times 
she is instructing her students, she has the sense of wonder 
that all good teachers have. But when a moment arrives where she 
could let down her hair and have fun with them, she can do that, 

Her voice exudes charm in "Getting to Know You," and surges with 
power at the end of "Hello, Young Lovers." Even in "Shall I Tell 
You What I Think of You?" where she fantasizes what she would 
like to say to her oppressor, she sings it melliflously, instead 
of sing-speaking it as most Annas have done. 

Carmello has forged a nice mother-and-son relationship with 
Gerard Canonico, and they are charming in "I Whistle a Happy 
Tune." He is an astonishingly good child actor, who already 
knows that acting means being real and not overdoing it the way 
most child actors do. 

Or the way Kevin Gray does as he woefully portrays the King. 
Granted, this is one of the toughest roles in the musical 
theater canon, for the bald-pated Yul Brynner put a seemingly 
indelible stamp on it back in 1951. But as Lou Diamond Phillips 
proved six years ago in a Tony-winning revival, the assignment 
isn't insurmountable. 

Gray's haircut -- with the sides and back shaved clean and the 
crown sporting a dark dollop -- provide an apt metaphor, for 
sometimes he imitates Brynner and sometimes he goes his own way. 
While simply photocopying a previous performance is usually a 
bad choice, Gray would have, on balance, been better off to 
channel Brynner, for what he does to the King of Siam is, sad to 
say, a musical theater crime. 

He so extraordinarily effete that he may remind older 
theatergoers of Billy DeWolfe, that supercilious fancypants 
of '40s films. He portrays the autocrat in a terribly immature 
way, as an overly petulant boy instead of as a man, with thin, 
reedy diction that is reminiscent of an adolescent whose voice 
hasn't yet changed. Indeed, when the King's teenage son 
Chulalongkorn (staunchly played by Erik Lin-Greenberg) makes his 
entrance, the boy walks with such authority and masculinity that 
he already seems much more of a man than his father. 

On hand, though, is a worthy Lun Tha, the slave who dares to 
love Tuptim, the King's newest concubine. Paolo Montalban is so 
moving that one wishes he had more than a few scenes. Had he 
been around in 1951, Rodgers and Hammerstein might have been so 
impressed with his renditions of "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I 
Have Dreamed" that they may well have written additional songs 
for him. 

Margaret Ann Gates' Tuptim has a lovely voice, but she seems too 
old and wise to play the character who is described as a "young 
girl" and "only a child." Another impressive voice belongs to 
Sandia Ang as Lady Thiang, but she is more intent on 
delivering "Something Wonderful" than performing it. Here is 
where she must show Anna how much she loves the King, but she 
only manages to get the audience to say, "Doesn't she sing 

As Anna says, "I'll not forget the children," for they all do 
beautifully. The 17 at Friday's opening (out of the 40 that 
rotate roles at different performances) each created a 
personality and got the audience to fall in love with them in 
the always moving "March of the Siamese Children." 

Both Michael Anania's sets and Roger Kirk's costumes are 
tasteful and comely. Susan Kikuchi's choreography may only 
mirror the original provided by Jerome Robbins, but Mayumi Saito 
and the ensemble shine during one of musical theater's most 
impressive ballets, "The Small House of Uncle Thomas." Mark S. 
Hoebee has staged the show to move as quickly as a Siamese cat 
chasing a Burmese mouse. Too bad, though, that Hoebee couldn't 
rope in Gray, so that the musical didn't become "The Page Boy 
and I." 
Copyright 2002 The Star-Ledger. Used by NJ.com with permission.