Listening to the overture of “The King and I” playing Proctors through Sunday, you realize there are probably more memorable songs in this one show than in all the new shows that opened on Broadway in the past decade. “Hello Young Lovers,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You” and “Something Wonderful” are but a few.
The national touring company that is at Proctors through Sunday not only makes each number a gorgeous memory, the terrific cast connects them to a story filled with lovely emotions. This is a wonderfully performed production that captures every one of the show’s strengths.
“The King and I,” tells the story of a widowed English schoolteacher who accepts a position in Siam to tutor the wives and children of the King The King wants to educate his children in western ways so as to be ready for the cultural changes that are inevitable.
The relationship between Anna and the King is a way of foreshadowing the clashes that come from such change. He is in many ways a man-child who wants his children to be prepared for change, but really doesn’t want to change his own behavior.
The headstrong Anna is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s finest female creations. She is courageous and righteous, yet a sucker for a cause or someone in need of a friend.
Anna and the King develop mutual admiration for each other based on respect. The sexual tensions leading up to the buoyant number “Shall We Dance” suggest that the two might even be in love. Making the number bitter-sweet is the knowledge that a romance between the two can never happen.
The performances are wonderful. Jose Llana as the King is a virile presence who can be a firm figure of authority and yet, remains a man chained to conventions.
Elena Shaddow is remarkably strong, yet vulnerable as the 21st century woman living in the 1860s.
Joan Almedilla as the King’s loyal and loving first wife has the best voice in a cast filled with stron voices.
“The King and I” defines classic musical theater. It has you laughing and crying within minutes of each other and when you leave the theater you realize you have spent almost three hours immersed in beauty.
“The King and I” is at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday. Tickets and schedule: 518- 346/6204 or proctors.com
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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