Press Review: The King and I at The Alexandra Theatre

Directed by Bartlett Sher and billed as starring Helen George in the role of Anna, the critically acclaimed Lincoln Center Theatre production of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical arrived on stage at The Alexandra Theatre as part of its major 2023 UK tour. 

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, The King and I tells the story of the rather unconventional and tempestuous relationship between King Mongkut of Siam (now known as Thailand) and Anna, a strong-willed British widowed schoolteacher who is employed by the King to tutor his many children, highlighting the battle between male and female, Western ideals and Eastern traditions. The show features an instantly recognisable score with songs including Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance and Whistle a Happy Tune.

For the press evening, the role of Anna was played by Maria Coyne, and she was sensational, capturing the very essence of the character with a warm and powerful tone in her voice.

Broadway performer Darren Lee as the conflicted King also gave a strong performance, with a magnificent presence and charisma, authority and dignity, also providing many of the comical moments of the show with superb timing and facial expressions.

The supporting cast were equally as impressive. Cezarah Bonner returned as the wise Lady Thiang (this time without sporting a crutch as doing the last performance we saw her in she had broken her leg and was wearing a leg brace). Bonner is masterful in her command of the stage and has a magnificent voice – a seasoned performer who shines. Kok-Hwa Lie also returned as the stoney-faced and traditional Prime Minister Kralahome and he was again a delight to watch. 

The highlight of the show is still the presentation of Tuptim’s (played by Amelia Kinu Muus) play – a Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which most of the cast was on stage – which was again beautifully executed in a 15 minute interlude. I’ve never warmed to the ‘play within a play’ device, but it was beautifully done. 

The costumes  – designed by Catherine Zuber – are lavish and intricate, with nearly two miles of fabric used to create the beautiful garments. The sets (which includes a large boat for the opening scene) are spectacular and have been designed from photos taken of Siam during the 19th Century. It remains as one of the most breathtaking shows on stage.

The King and I is yet again an absolute delight to behold – with an incredibly talented cast full of seasoned performers and a fabulous soundtrack. A must watch!

The King and I will be on stage at The Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 28th February – Saturday 4th March. Purchase your tickets here!