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Theater Review: “The King and I”

“The King and I” plays through July 1, 2018, at San Diego Civic Theatre; 3rd and B Streets, Downtown.
Photo credit:
Jeremy Daniel

One of the great theatrical face-offs between dictatorial power and female determination is back onstage through Sunday at the San Diego Civic Theatre.

It’s “The King and I,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical based on Margaret Landon’s novel about the British teacher who goes to Siam (now called Thailand) to teach the king’s children. The king (Jose Llama) has decided to modernize his country. Part of that campaign involves the importation of a printing press; hiring Anna is another step.

This is the touring version of the 2015 New York production that won five Tonys, including Best Revival of a Musical.

The strong-willed Anna (Elena Shaddow) butts heads immediately with the equally pigheaded King when she asks for the house off the palace grounds promised in the King’s employment offer. He claims to remember no such promise, and asserts that she will live in the palace. Anna nearly leaves on the spot but gives in once she sees the King’s wives and children.

Both have lovely voices, though I found Llama’s spoken lines a bit muddled. Maybe I’m just too old.

The young lovers Tuptim (Q Lim) and Lun Tha (Kavin Panmeechao) are lovely together, and Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla) is particularly effective. The dancing corps is fine as well.

Brian Rivera is excellent as the king’s minister Kralahome, and Charlie Oh is fine as Prince Chulalongkorn, though I wondered about his British accent.

This version has lovely costumes (by Catherine Zuber) and excellent choreography by Christopher Gattelli. Michael Yeargan’s sets are simple, with movable pieces. I don’t know whether the high, ugly wall at the back is meant to convey current political issues in the United States or not, but I found it a bit distracting.

But let’s face it, this show is about the fascinating story and those great Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, wonderfully served by Conductor Tim Laciano’s 18-member orchestra.

It’s all there through Sunday at San Diego Civic Theatre.

The details

“The King and I” plays through July 1, 2018, at San Diego Civic Theatre; 3rd and B Streets, Downtown.

Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm

Tickets: (619) 570-1100 or broadwaysd.com