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Have you had the pleasure of seeing The King and I non equity tour that is currently touring the U.S.A.? It is now in Thousand Oaks, California, a suburb just north of Los Angeles for the weekend (12/27 – 12/30) before heading to British Columbia in the New Year.
Based on the beloved Lincoln Center production, this non equity tour stars Angela Baumgarder as Anna Leonowens and Pedro Ka’awaloa as The King of Siam. Annie Sherman covers the role of Anna on most matinees, including December 29th at 2pm. DeAnna Choi (Lady Thiang), Paulina Yeung (Tuptim), Dongwoo Kang (Lun Tha) and Bern Tan (Kralahome) round out the strong leading cast.
|Bern Tan. Photo by Matthew Murphy. (c) The King and I.|
Featuring favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein show-tune classics including “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting To Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful,” The King and I is a true theatrical classic.
Yul Brynner as The King of Siam is a hard act to follow, even 67 years later. Pedro Ka’awaloa‘s King is young and full of passion with an adorable way of saying “etc., etc., etc.” and his chemistry with Baumgarder (Anna) is charming especially during Act One whenever they are having playful and amusing arguments about such issues as Anna’s demanding of a house or how high Anna’s head should be.
|DeAnna Choi as Lady Thiang. Photo by Matthew Murphy. (c) The King and I.|
The highlight of the evening is DeAnna Choi’s “Something Wonderful” during Act One. Choi has a gorgeous soprano that is pure and convincing. Although Choi’s character does not say much she is a strong woman who helps orchestrate the future of her country through her actions. In fact she was the first cast member to receive a strong standing ovation Friday evening at the performance I attended.
I truly was impressed by the cast that was strong in general. The ensemble was great in their dance numbers especially the featured dancers during the Uncle Tom ballet and the children (although few in numbers) were precious especially in their scenes with the King. Leading actors Angela Baumgarder as Anna Leonowens and Pedro Ka’awaloa as The King of Siam were convincing in their roles with the minor exception being Ka’awaloa’s youthful looks and each was well highlighted in his/her first act solo. I just wish that the chemistry I felt between the leading actors during Act One had continued through to Act Two yet when the King put his hand at Anna’s waist I felt nothing. No goosies and no chills.
It was Choi‘s “Something Wonderful” that drew the loudest applause. Paulina Yeung (Tuptim) also had a fine voice and her “My Lord and Master” is poignant but unfortunately she failed to connect further with the audience (or at least this writer) in her plight for happiness with Lun Tha. Was it a lack of chemistry or the inappropriate insulting of the King in front of his guests that hurt her case?
|Dongwoo Kang and Pualina Yeung. Photo by Matthew Murphy. (c) The King and I.|
Moving on though… the show is truly one of the best non equity tours I have had the pleasure of seeing with such strong performances from the three leads and stunning costumes by Catherine Zuber and beautiful music from conductor David Aaron Brown and his pit orchestra that did a good job of making up from their small size. This tour reminds us why the classic musicals must never be shelved and are just as relevant today as they were many decades ago. You will not regret forking out the $ to see The King and I when it stops at a place near you!
Disclaimer: I received my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.