Article from Nameless
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Reviewed by Laura Kyro
I can recall having seen Yul Brynner in the musical The King and I many years ago at the Fox. An aging Yul tried his best to be .as good a King as he could have been,. despite his years. It was hard to see that the demanding songs and the energetic polka he performed as the King with Deborah Kerr in 1956's movie of the musical were long past him. An aging actor resting on his laurels was not to be found in Francis Jue's King of Siam in the current Muny production of The King and I; Francis was the most lively and interesting part of the production.
Opening night of the Muny's 2006 season was very warm and marked by long lines (such lines I have never before experienced, this time courtesy of only two attendants being available to punch tickets at the entrance I used; many dozens of people on that side couldn't make it to their seats in time for the Pledge of Allegiance, and there were still lines as the Overture began). As usual, the crowd of nearly 10,000 was dressed in light clothing and ready for the experience that is the Muny.
The story is that of schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Leslie Denniston) and her time teaching English at the court of King Mongkut of Siam (Francis Jue) in the 1860's. Other primary characters include the ill-fated lovers Lun Tha (Paolo Montalban) and Tuptim (Andréa Burns), the King's first wife (of many!), Lady Thiang (Reveka Mavrovitis), and their son, the heir Prince Chulalongkorn (Kasey Parks). The musical is known for one of the most beautiful and lush scores ever produced by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, and includes classics such as .Hello Young Lovers,. .Getting to Know You,. .Shall We Dance,. and the stirring .March of the Siamese Children..
In the main, and while enjoyable, this production didn't quite seem to have jelled together, a situation that should be rectified in the coming nights. All the parts were there: the cast all had nice voices; the acting was competent (Director, Paul Blake); the ensemble talented; the dancing graceful; the costumes beautiful; the set opulent (Designer, Steve Gilliam). And yet the show seemed uneven and superficial, it is showing its age in its handling of various social and moral issues, the pacing was slow (minor editing to cut down on the 3-hour running time with intermission would have been helpful), and it lacked a sense of life. The single bright spot that kept the show from one-note status was Francis Jue as the King.he leapt, he danced, he bellowed, and while he channeled Yul, he definitely made the part his own.and on top of it he's got a great set of pipes! Kudos as well to the singing talents of Paolo Montalban as Lun Tha. I believe the men held the night in the vocal department!
It may have been opening night jitters that I felt made this production miss being .as good a production as it could have been,. so I hope it all comes together soon as a great start to this Summer's Muny Musicals.
The King and I will be on stage at the Muny in Forest Park through Sunday, June 25th, 2006. For more information or for tickets call Metrotix at 314-534-1111, or check out the Muny website at www.muny.org.
Paolo Montalban website: http://www.ePaolo.com