Review, The King and I – Venue Cymru by Richard Evans

Venue Cymru, March 7th to 11th 2023

Rodgers & Hammerstein, based on Margaret Landon’s book Anna and the King

Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theater Productions

 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

“How will I know when I know everything?” “When you are King!”

This faithful production of The King and I portrays the unexpected love story between the King of Siam and a schoolteacher really well. It also draws out a series of dilemmas thrown up by a remarkable passage in history, not least the problem of how one inherits omniscience!

At its heart it is the story of two people, the King and Anna, but like much of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work, the apparently light musical romance is rooted in political change.

For generations, each king of Siam had ultimate power within his protectorate, but the current king is now struggling to reconcile ancient rights with modern progress and the pernicious influence of western colonialism. The king is seen as barbaric, even though the show is set at the same time as the American Civil War, and only shortly after the Indian Mutiny. 

In fact this king is an educated, intelligent man trying hard to balance his autocratic power with a more considerate, conscience-driven approach.  

Opposite him is Anna, an intrepid, forthright widow employed as a teacher to the king’s children – all 67 of them. She arrives in Bangkok accompanied only by her young son, having never lived outside the British Empire. The culture shock in itself would be extreme. 

While others say what they think the king wants to hear, Anna  speaks her mind, becoming a “difficult woman” in the process. Her arrival throws up a number of clashes of culture, attitude and morality, some of which become humorous. Why did Western, Victorian women wear dresses with hoops ten feet wide?  I have no idea.  It is slightly ironic that I viewed this production on International Women’s Day, which seeks to raise the status of women worldwide today. Anna repeatedly asserts her right to be treated with dignity and equality, yet the king sees the role of a woman as merely to serve a man.  

There is therefore much to take from this story. Helen George and Darren Lee are excellent as the leads and are ably-supported by the cast, in particular the children. The score has a number of well-loved tunes, and Marienella Phillips showed her operatic voice to good effect as Tuptim, the chief narrator, a slave girl with an education and attitude.  The choice of Uncle Tom’ Cabin as a showpiece play for western visitors is a definite dig by R & H at US society.  

But there is a problem with this show in the present age: what was vital, bold and brilliant in 1951 lacks the intensity and grittiness that has become today’s standard. It has become a period piece. Some of the songs are very much of their time, and rather twee. 

But this criticism nonetheless admits the show’s classic status; it’s a rattling good story. The score may seem dated to some, but others will recognise their enduring appeal. The audience, of course, lapped it up from curtain-up and offered a sincere ovation at the end. For all its age and increasing creakiness, no one can deny its star quality.    

16 thoughts on “Review, The King and I – Venue Cymru by Richard Evans”

  1. We were really looking forward to seeing this. Very disappointed that Helen George is not coming to Wales.

  2. My husband and I thought the show was fantastic from the beginning to the end all the cast were extremely talented and the children were just lovely

  3. An excellent performance by all the cast. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting a great evening out.

  4. Went to see this show at new Wimbledon theatre on14 feb thinking Helen George would be in the show and what a disappointment when the show started that’s when we new she wasn’t going to be in it 🙁the show was only on for one week and when you get to the theatre all you can see is posters of Helen but she’s no where to be seen

    1. I can not speak about the Wimbledon tour dates, but in Llandudno, Helen George missed the first night but played the rest of the performances from what I understand

  5. This show was brilliant from start to finish! The cast were excellent in particular Helen George & Darren Lee who were both well cast.The children were delightful. The live orchestra were also excellent. I would highly recommended you go & see it if you can.

  6. We saw it in Llandudno on Friday night. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Helen George and Darren Lee as Anna and the king were amazing, he was so funny. The young children were adorable and the support cast were brilliant too. 3 hours flew by!

  7. Fantastic performance on Thursday evening in Llandudno. From the King, Anna, to the youngest child……amazing.

  8. I went to see this performance on sat the 11th march the 2.30 pm showing at llandudno for my birthday. It was fantastic was start to finish which was 3 hrs long I loved every minute. The singing, dancing, custume’s & props were amazing. Helen George was the perfect person to play Anna I was blown away by her performance in fact everyone in it was amazing without a doubt!,I would def go & see this again in a heatbeat!!

  9. Brilliant show 👏 the actors, actresses and the children was amazing would definitely recommend the show and I would see it again.

  10. I went with my daughter on opening night, as a gift for my 60th birthday. I have always loved the film, and the theatre production was true to the storyline. I was very disappointed that Helen George wasn’t on stage that evening, I think should be made aware when booking. This did not however deter from the fact that the acting and singing is excellent. The young prince stole the show for me, acting and singing beyond his years.

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