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The King and I: From the London Palladium

The King and I - London- Image credit © Matthew Murphy.
The King and I – London- Image credit © Matthew Murphy.

The film version of the multiple Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center Theater production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I: FROM THE LONDON PALLADIUM has become the biggest theatre event in cinemas of 2018 following yesterday’s (29th November 2018) screenings around the world. The production is expected to take $2.5m at the box office. In the UK the film reached the number one spot, with more than double the box office of the next film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

More than 135,000 filmgoers packed into cinemas across the globe to watch THE KING AND I: FROM THE LONDON PALLADIUM – filmed on stage at the iconic London Palladium. Such has been the demand for tickets, Trafalgar Releasing has scheduled encore screenings both in the UK and globally throughout December.

Producer Howard Panter says: “The response from cinema audiences around the world has been phenomenal. And I’m delighted that THE KING AND I: FROM THE PALLADIUM is now the biggest theatre event in cinemas of the year, taking the number one position at the Box Office. The demand for tickets has been so huge that we have scheduled many more encore screenings of the film all over the world – giving an even greater number of people the opportunity to enjoy this lavish award-winning production.

*******

I don’t believe a cinema viewing of a show will ever truly replace a live performance, and I hope that it doesn’t, but I really enjoyed my ‘King and I’ theatre/cinema experience. It’s got to be a positive move to encourage newcomers, perhaps, to see these classics which The King and I certainly is.

Kelli O’Hara reprises her Broadway role of Anna Leonowens. Her voice is a masterpiece and her beautiful soul just captures the part so perfectly. The only thing that grated on me was the English accident at the start, although necessary to be “proper” English, it didn’t feel natural and did temper my enjoyment at the start. However, I soon was won over by the stunning truthfulness in her performance. She exudes that Julie Andrew-esq class and tone which was captivating.

I didn’t think anyone would truly capture the King as Yul Brynner did in the 1956 film (the version I watched repeatedly as a child) and so was delighted to watch Ken Watanabe bring a freshness to the role whilst maintaining that dislikeable but likeable balance that the King must have. His charisma was bold and strong and he was incredible commanding in the role. I am not sure Kelli and Ken had the chemistry seen in the film, but I still enjoyed their complex relationship.

Na-Young Jeon was sensational as Tuptim. In her first song, of just over a minute, she had already captured me with her brutal honesty and vulnerability. She has a stunning tone to her voice and true sadness behind her eyes. Perfect casting. Ruthie Ann Miles, although a strong performer, didn’t quite work for me as Lady Thiang. She had the presence but maybe not the maturity for me to hold the role as ‘head wife’.

No member of the company truly disappointed though. The royal children were an absolute delight and every member brought a different dynamic and a great energy. Although the cast were expectantly strong, what really blew me away was the costumes: the wealth and glorious mixtures of colour and fabrics is mind-blowing. Costume designer Catherine Zuber should be applauded. As should Michael Yeargan and Donald Holder: set and lighting worked perfectly to support and yet not distract from the performance too. It was certainly an indulgent performance full of richness and excess.

The King and I is such a classic piece of musical theatre with hard-hitting themes and serious matters paired with a lightness and comedy. A lot has already been said in the press about the story being awkward in this modern day, that I don’t wish to add to it. It’s a story I loved as a child and I was delighted to have revisited it in this cinema showing of The London Palladium performance. It has been directed expertly by Bartlett Sher, to add a lightness of touch to some of the “trickier” issues and I loved the sense of humour brought to the western vs oriental dynamics.

The main issue with a recording is you lose the vulnerability and closeness to the performers but also the presence of the band and power in the music sometimes but I would still recommend a watch. Whether it’s to revisit the classic story or as fresh eyes to the Rodgers and Hammerstein piece.

Review by Daisy Smith

*******

Production Information:
Title: The King and I: From The Palladium
Screenings: Throughout December
Starring: Kelli O’Hara, Ken Watanabe, Ruthie Ann Miles
Runtime: 180 mins
Certificate: 12A
Central ticketing site: www.kingandimusicalcinema.com
Official Hashtag: #TheKingandI

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