Thursday, March 03, 2005

'King and I' revival beautifully performed

FLINT, MI - A decent number of sturdy souls braved the stormy weather Tuesday evening, trudged into The Whiting, and were rewarded with a truly sumptuous performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's exotic "The King and I."

Based on Margaret Landon's book "Anna and the King of Siam," the story follows the 19th-century exploits of a widow arriving from England to teach Western ways to the children of the Siamese court. It is a story about clashing cultures. It is also a story about understanding, conciliation and compromise.

Any time you march adorable children across the stage, you can be sure to engage even the most critical viewer, and this show has no shortage of delightful youngsters. Indeed, director Baayork Lee's first parade of the children was a scene-stealer as each showed off their individuality in their specific approach to the King.

Of course, Stefanie Powers in the role of Anna Leonowens was a huge drawing card and proved to be a worthy one. Her voice was up to the task, and her diction through a feigned British accent was clear. Powers moved with a certainty and purpose that gave grit to this strong woman in a land that generally devalued women.

Powers was supported to no small degree by Ronobir Lahiri as the King. His demeanor, vocal power and slight accent combined to infuse the role with a magnetic sense of humanity and strength. Lahiri's King is a many-faceted ruler with an impish sense of humor that endears the character.

Michelle Liu Coughlin was glowing as Tuptim, and it wasn't just her gorgeous gold and diamond-studded costume that gleamed. Her voice was strong as well. As Lady Thiang, Catherine MiEun Choi's voice soared in her outstanding rendition of "Something Wonderful."

One of this show's most spectacular production numbers is the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet. Beautifully set and performed, it was a true highlight.

This entire production is lavishly decorated. Rich crimsons and golds adorn the sets as well as many of the gorgeous costumes, while

large gilt statues of gods and warriors anchor several scenes.

The signature image of this show has always been the "Shall We Dance?" scene between Anna and the King. True to expectations, Powers swept about the stage in yards of gloriously swirling pale-pink satin accompanied by Lahiri in plush red and gold.

As with many of the recent musical revivals, this production has kept what was good about the original show and allowed modern technology to improve on the rest.

"The King and I" concludes tonight at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information, contact the box office at (810) 237-7333.

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