It’s my wife’s birthday today and she wanted to see “The King and I” on Broadway starring Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe. It’s showing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. Ms. O’Hara was not performing on 31 March so we got tickets for March 30.
I have a strange relationship to Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. I really like one of them: Carousel (which I’ve read was Richard Rodger’s favorite), but I’m lukewarm to the others. Maybe the reason for this originates in my childhood. My family was not very musical and we didn’t have many records (this was pre-CD, pre internet download etc.). One we did have was the soundtrack of the movie: “The Sound of Music”. My mother played this endlessly. Actually she probably didn’t, but it seemed like it to me at the time. I grew to hate it. So I’m reluctant to go to one even though when I do I usually enjoy it. For example I saw “The Sound of Music” a few years ago and had a thoroughly good time.
I enjoyed this production too. As most people know it’s based on “Anna and the King of Siam” (present day Thailand). As usual for shows in NY the sets (the opening is particularly impressive) and lighting were great, and the costumes spectacular. The cast was terrific especially the principals: Kelli O’Hara, Ken Watanabe, Ruthie Ann Miles, and Ashley Park (whose voice I particularly liked) even though it was a bit difficult to figure out what Mr. Watanabe was saying at times.
I’ve now seen all of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals on Broadway and my preferences are as follows (from favorite to least favorite):
2. South Pacific
4. The Sound of Music
5. The King and I
So you can see that “The King and I” is my least favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which is a pity because it’s complex and interesting (see Scott Miller’s analysis). It has it’s points and some of the songs are wonderful. But to me it’s too long and there’s too much spoken dialogue. I found my attention wandering in the parts between the songs. I’m also not too fond of the lengthy ballet in the second act. I’d also agree with what Ben Brantley when he describes that show (in a generally positive review) as a “…colonialist-minded musical that, by rights, should probably embarrass us in the age of political correctness.
After the show we decided to finish the day with some Thai food (it seemed fitting) so we went to our favorite local Thai Restaurant: Bangkok Spice in Shrub Oak.
My wife and myself have been to Thailand many times. The statuette above was bought at a market outside of Bangkok and hangs on our living room wall. There’s a story behind it (and it’s later twin) but this post’s already long enough so I’ll keep it for another time.