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The King and I | The Lowry

Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1951 classic ‘The King and I’ opened last night to a packed house at The Lowry, Salford. From the word go, the audience is treated to a veritable feast for the eyes and ears. Bartlett Sher’s direction provides a solid, safe, and traditional take on this musical theatre classic.

Let’s begin with the obvious draw for many people. Helen George is a total delight. Ease of charm and wit flow through her performance and she provides a surprisingly strong vocal for someone known mainly for their TV work. In a time and place of women being downtrodden by their chauvinist male masters, George’s firm and knowing portrayal of Anna is a breath of fresh air

to proceedings. Once the audience settle into Darren Lee’s portrayal of the King, he has them in the palm of his hand. A firm, decisive and often cruel leader who softens through the piece, thanks to the warmth and kindness of his most recent ‘servant’. Lee certainly helps to find the comedy in a character that otherwise could easily become one-dimensional. A forbidden love story is explored yet a little lacklustre, though the performances of Dean John-Wilson and Marienella Phillips are nice enough.

The theatrical landscape has recently been strewn with classics being tipped upside down, modernised or stripped back entirely, some very successfully and some not so much. In this instance, it’s rather refreshing to see a classic musical presented as such, and certainly something the audience in Salford connected with. With tradition comes the oft-maligned Rogers and Hammerstein ballet sequence, which fortunately has had a fresh lease of life breathed into it. Too often these moments can act as a brick wall to the fluidity of the storytelling. Well not here. Christopher Gattelli’s magical choreography is brought to life by the highly talented ensemble and ballet dancers in what is the standout scene of the show.

No expense has been spared on the costuming, the design of which is grandiose yet intricate down to the finest detail. Catherine Zuber has done a stunning job. Worthy of a special mention is sound designer Scott Lehrer, who has managed to successfully create a natural and unforced sound that lends itself so well to the score. The 11-strong orchestra create a delightful sound under the direction of Christopher Mundy, ably accompanying the array of pure voices on the stage.

This is a classic musical, treated with the respect it deserves that truly captivates its audience. The King and I plays at The Lowry until 13th January before transferring to the West End, Dominion Theatre 20th January - 2nd March. Details can be found here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography provided by The Lowry


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