Wednesday, 29 August 2018

THEATRE | THE KING AND I STARRING KEN WATANABE


My theatre streak continues and this time with a musical! I was super stoked to hear that the Tony award winning The King and I would be transferring to London after a successful stint on Broadway and that Ken Watanabe would be reprising the lead role (y'all know I'm the biggest fan of Inception). Despite this, I somehow completely missed the ticket release date and of course the good seats sold out in no time (I'm kind of short-sighted so I'd prefer to be sitting as close to the front as possible). Usually I'd then redirect myself to get day seats in similar scenarios but the London Palladium, where it's being held, don't offer them for some reason. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to settle with watching a recording when one day, out of the blue, my friend told me of an app called TodayTix. You can download it from the App Store and once you create an account, you're eligible for loads of special ticket offers at discounted prices as well as "rush tickets" which are a handful of seats selling for cheaper that go on sale every day for a performance that same night. I honestly thought it would be a bloodbath (who wouldn't want a front row seat for £25?) but I decided to give it a go one morning and lo and behold, I managed to checkout with a ticket for both my friend and I! Long story short: TodayTix is awesome and you should download it. I wouldn't say musicals are my favourite type of plays, primarily because I have a rather short attention span and would rather sentences not to be dragged out into melodious syllables but I do enjoy the odd one now and again (Phantom Of The Opera and Love Never Dies are my favourites because of that dark, forbidden romance aspect), and I am always all for Asian representation in popular culture, being Asian myself. I adore Mulan and not too long ago, also went to see Miss Saigon and Hamilton. Once again as I tend to do with most of my theatre outings, I went into The King and I without any prior knowledge of even the most basic of plots and settings.


The King and I tells a moving, radiant story of East meets West. It is the early 1860s when newly widowed Anna leonowens and her son, Louis, set sail from their native England for Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand). Anna, still grieving, has set her sights onna new adventure and taken a position as the schoolteacher for the royal offspring of the King of Siam. The King is determined to usher Siam into the modern world and he thinks Western education can be a part of that – yet, Anna is horrified at first by many of the traditions that he holds dear. Anna and the King struggle to find common ground. The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by rulers of the West, and he takes Anna on as an advisor, asking her to help change his image – if not his actual practice. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King teach each other about understanding, respect, and love that can transcend the greatest of differences. Beneath the fraught, fiercely opinionated, conflict-ridden surface of Anna and the King's relationship, lies quite a unique love story.


I felt so blessed to sit front row to witness this opulent production. Obviously The King and I is on a much grander scale than the previous two plays I watched and reviewed, with jaw-dropping props and costumes. I particularly enjoy watching the scene transitions when it comes to such productions, is anyone else with me on this? There's something really satisfying about watching pieces slide into place on the stage. I truly adored the story, the relationship between Anna and the King is charming and doesn't come off forced at all, something I'm inherently picky about when it comes to fictional romances. For some reason, I didn't find the songs as catchy and memorable as other musicals I've seen but Kelli O'Hara, who plays Anna, has such a gorgeous voice and any melody she sings comes out mesmerising. Ken Watanabe, on the other hand, unfortunately doesn't have a singing voice to match O'Hara but he's still fantastic as the King of Siam, he truly makes the audience understand why his character is the way he is plus he's funny to boot! Who impressed me the most out of the cast, were the children though. The youngest probably only four years old, not only were they so adorable that I kept letting out a loud "awww" every single time they were on stage, they're all so professional like how on earth do they remember their lines and cues? I loved their teacher/pupil relationship with Anna and those kids totally gave this musical a lot more heart. Also worth mentioning, I found the more dance focussed scenes absolutely amazing (particularly the ballet, Small House of Uncle Thomas), showcasing a lot of Thai culture and just so engrossing. One downside was that the pacing throughout the entire musical felt a bit odd, with a couple of high energy dance numbers sprinkled between a lot of standing around and slow singing. If you're a fan of musicals, Inception, if you're Asian, all or just one of the above, or you're just in the mood to be wowed, definitely look into catching The King and I before their run finishes in London. Don't forget to check out TodayTix for cheap tickets too!


The King and I is at the London Palladium until 29th September and tickets can be found here.

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