IT is 64 years ago that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical version of Anna and the King of Siam, The King and I, opened on Broadway – but this touching show, based on the real story of English widow Anna Leonowens and her engagement by the King of Siam to teach his children and his wives the refinements of English life, has continued to delight audiences ever since.
On stage at the Octagon in Yeovil until 28th March is Yeovil Amateur Operatic Society’s third production of the classic show, the second by director and choreographer Ray Jeffrey and the most spectacular to date.
The current company is made up of many new faces alongside the regulars.
Ray Jeffery makes a welcome return to Yeovil after six years, proving once again his visionary skills with the look of a production. I have never seen the Small House of Uncle Thomas ballet better done, and each and every member of the large cast has worked hard to master the movement required of Eastern dance and steps.
The leading roles are played by Simon Dunford and Naomi Riglar, two performers who cut their teeth in Weymouth.
Karen Pankhurst is the elegant Lady Thiang, with assistant choreographer Jennifer Holland-Brewer as the lovelorn Tuptim and Ben Scott as her illicit lover Lun Tha.
The overall effect is stunning, and Richard Rodgers’ music has lost none of its power to move. The tear-jerker Something Wonderful, the questions of A Puzzlement (delightfully performed here in mirror by young James Bamford and Vini Lloyd) and the brilliantly done Shall We Dance were highlights in this sparkling production.
The British Empire’s colonial ambitions, the Anglicisation of the Far East and the routine cruelty to servants and slaves are all historical facts, and anyone producing The King and I must beware of political moralising.
Musical director Gill Merrifield presides over an excellent 11-strong orchestra, bringing the familiar and sumptuous tunes with their clever words to a new audience, as well as awakening memories in us oldies.
Fred McLoughlin’s Kralahome was not sufficiently menacing, and I found Anna’s soliloquy Shall I Tell You What I think of You far too modern.
But overall this is another terrific production from YAOS, and well worth the journey to the Octagon.