The King and I

CAROLINE CULOT The heart strings were tugged by what has to be one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most evocative musicals.


The heart strings were tugged last night by what has to be one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most evocative musicals.

Big was the word, from the opulent set that transformed the Theatre Royal stage into an ornate Eastern palace to the rich costumes and the rousing numbers themselves. Yul Brynner, of course, made the part of the king his for all time and how could we ever forget the incredible Shall We Dance when he whisks Deborah Kerr across the palace floor in the film version?

It's the tale of a love between two people that cannot be love; between the King and the matronly English schoolmistress Anna who arrives in Bangkok to teach his children. The two come from different worlds yet it is Anna who ultimately destroys him. A mirror image of these characters is the secret love affair going on between Tuptim and Lun Tha.

The King is an inherently difficult role for anyone because of everyone's strong memory of Brynner. But Ronobir Lahiri makes a pretty good job playing on the humour of the king's stubbornness and vanity. Yet when the king has to be really tough in a bid to rule in the only way he knows, Lahiri portrays just the right anger and forcefulness.

Marti Webb sits comfortably in the role of Anna also able to mediate between humour and poignancy.

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The supporting cast is also spot on. Cezarah Bonner and Jo Jo de la Cerna as the young lovers both have beautiful voices, and Gina Respall as Lady Thiang brought the house down with her thoroughly amazing rendition of Something Wonderful.

But as with other Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, the music is the real star – who could be failed to be moved by numbers like We Kiss in a Shadow, Hello, Young Lovers and, of course, Shall We Dance. It's all there – the good old-fashioned musical is in vogue again but be quick if you want to catch it as tickets are at a premium.

Norwich Theatre Royal box office: 01603 630000.

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