Review: The King and I (Wales Millennium Centre)

Reviewed by Emily March
10th January 2020
Reviewer Rating: ★★★

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King And I danced into the Wales Millennium Centre this week, bringing it’s classic score including Whistle A Happy Tune, Getting To Know You and Shall We Dance. In fact, it was the first musical I’ve seen in a while that included a traditional overture, filling the theatre with a medley of the shows’ songs in preparation for the performance. It celebrates heritage and tradition, and a history lesson to many, with its dark undertones and universal themes of love, identity and prejudice.

The show was lead by Standby Anna, Maria Coyne, who brought a quiet bravery and fierceness to the role. Her voice was beautiful and her confidence grew through the performance, along with her character. Coyne’s natural chemistry with leading man, Jose Llana, was a joy to watch, and really drew me in to the world of the show. Llana’s performance as the King of Siam stood out to me for his energy, wit and comedic timing. You could tell he was no stranger to the role, having played it in the Tony-winning production in the US.

A standout for me was Ethan Le Phong and Aaron Teoh’s turns as secret lover, Lun Tha, and Prince Chulalonhkorn respectively. Their stage presence was unmatched, and Phong’s voice was particularly strong, shining through in his duets with lover Tuptim, who was played at this performance by Jessica Gomes-Ng.

A stand-out moment for me was the performance of The Small House of Uncle Thomas, which acted as a show within the show performed for the British visitors. It included some captivating choreography, impressively danced by the company and Ena Yamaguchi as Eliza. Her core strength and traditional dance technique was breathtaking. 

The set design was exciting at the beginning of the show, with a stunning sunrise backdrop and the impressive entrance of the ship taking Anna and her young son, Louis, to Bangkok. Louis was played confidently by young Joseph Black. He was charming and had a great voice to match. Aside from the beginning, the set seemed a little underwhelming, giving the wealth and royalty it was supposed to represent. 

Leading on from that, I felt a little underwhelmed by the production as a whole. It was definitely enjoyable to watch, but it lacked emotional impact. I wanted something more from the production, that I can’t quite put my finger on. At almost 3 hours in length, it needed a little more energy and buzz to engage the audience for such a length of time. Despite that, it was a lovely night at the theatre, shining some light on the classics that we all know and love. 

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