The King and I: Not your old Yul Brynner

We attended the final performance at Kansas City’s Starlight of the King and I this past Sunday. And it was definitely a good show.

One of the things that makes continuing a long-running show difficult is if it has had iconic stars with iconic performances that made/created the original roles.  Both the rolls of Anna and the King are afflicted by this malady.

Yet you couldn’t tell that by the performances of the stars at Starlight. The portrayal of the characters was spot on. But there wasn’t a sense of Yul Brynner or any iconic star in attendance.

I noted that the actress playing Anna used some sort of inserted 16th note catch of lift in several of the songs to create the emphasis she wanted. This was not something I had seen in previous performances, yet worked quite well to provide the phrasing she wanted.  the “Your Servant” song was phrased so well that I suddenly saw social commentary that had always been in the song, but which previous performances had not made stand out to me.

“A puzzlement” gave the King actor a place to mark his difference, which he did well, and the kid’s when they sang theirs, really created a resonant moment.

It just shows that the material can stay true to the composer’s and writer’s script and vision, and yet stay fresh and new, if you have a cast willing to look at them with new eyes, while still being aware of the contributions of the great performances of the past.

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