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"The King and I" Revival -- Broadway

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The following is based on Thursday's first preview so take it into strong consideration.









As with "South Pacific," the story holds up well. It's thrilling to hear a full orchestra play all those Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. Excellent staging. The children of the king are prominantly featured, and mostly wonderful. 'Shall We Dance" with Anna and the King come close to stopping the show.


Kelli O'Hara is having some trouble with the character of Anna Leonowens, which was written for an older actress, Gertrude Laurence. But, O'Hara will get there.


Less sure about Ken Watanabe as the King. He's speaking in a thick accent, so many of his words and sentences are lost. He looks the part, and is fine with the limited amoint of singing required of his character.


Early preview problems: Thursday night let out at 11:20. The first act was almost two hours. The ballet: The Small House of Uncle Thomas, a centerpeiece of the musical started at 10:55. "The King and I" has almost always done well on Broadway in the past, I hope cuts can be made to reduce the running time to about three hours. Again this is not a new musical, but has seldom played Broadway without Yul Brynner.


Advice: Wait a while before seeing "The King and I" revival.

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Thursday night let out at 11:20. The first act was almost two hours.

According to a source I have privy to, the first act ran exactly one hour and 35 minutes, NOT "almost two hours." Act II ran about 1:15. That's a total of 2 hours, 50 minutes (not counting intermission), which frankly seems maybe just slightly long for this piece, though it certainly will tighten up as previews continue.


If the show had started on time (which it most likely didn't), and if the intermission were a strict 15 minutes (and I would bet it was longer), the end time would have been 11:05. So I'm certain the the actual start time (i.e. the start of the Overture), and the actual length of the intermission, were not taken into account in the above post.


They WILL need to get the total evening to be done by 11:00 in order to avoid overtime for the orchestra. So I'm sure they WILL aim to tighten things up.:p

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  • 4 weeks later...

I saw this last night (Thursday, April 9) and loved every minute of it! (Yes, it ended just before 11 pm). Kelli O'Hara inhabits her role; hard to believe this elegant 19th century lady was also Nellie Forbush. Ken Watanabe is charismatic as the king; yes, not every word of every song is clearly sung, but OK. The other actors and singers -- Tuptim, Lady Thiang, the Prince -- are superb. I saw this in 1952, when I was 14. There were lots of young people in the audience -- a great revival of a great Broadway musical -- show these kids what it used to be like!

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NYPost columnist Michael Reidel's column had this to say about the goings on at The King And I:


For weeks, my spies in Siam were telling me that nobody at “The King and I” could understand a word Ken Watanabe was saying. And when I say nobody, I mean nobody — from the actors to the audience to the ushers.


The Japanese actor, whose performance in “The Last Samurai” netted him an Oscar nomination, has only a passing familiarity with English. His portrayal of the King in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, opening April 16, was said to be intense and moving. But his version of “Shall We Dance?” reportedly came across like a scene from Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”


Cast members were panicky because they could hear those blue-haired ladies who make up much of the Lincoln Center audience saying things like “What’s he saying?,” “What kind of an accent is that?” and, my favorite, “Speak English — like Yul Brynner!”


Apparently, Watanabe was nervous about the language problem as well. And so he decreed about three weeks ago — after all, he is the King — that everybody on the show address him in English at all times.


“He has spent every day since previews speaking in English and in English only,” a source says. “Even at home, I think.”


Well, the Rosetta Stone crash course paid off. Watanabe can now be understood, for the most part, by everybody in the theater. The little old ladies have settled down. They are no longer puzzled by “A Puzzlement.”


Watanabe’s accent wasn’t the only problem. Director Bart Sher’s production moved, to put it diplomatically, like a slow boat to China. Early performances were running over three hours. But Sher has a reputation for speeding things up. I saw an early preview of his 2008 “South Pacific” revival that lasted longer than World War II. But by opening night, the show coasted along — right to a Tony for Best Revival.


Now insiders are saying that “The King and I,” starring Kelli O’Hara, is much improved, and that Watanabe may be a contender for the Tony.


He should keep working on his English so we can understand his acceptance speech.



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  • 1 month later...

Saw this production last night and enjoyed every moment. Great music, great cast, great direction, costumes and sets. Couldn't have asked for a better evening of musical theater.

Since it is now well into it's run at LCT some of the early issues have been ironed out. Kelli O'Hara is mesmerizing and her voice is in fine form. Ken Wanatabe has practiced hard to erase his dialogue difficulties and is terrific in the role as King. I had no problem understanding him.

Terrific production. I would go back in a heartbeat.



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I saw this last Friday night. I saw the film many years ago as a child. The friend who went with me saw the original on Broadway as a child. She thinks this is the best of all musicals. Me, I think the story is interesting but not great. The music is good, but again, doesn't leave me humming afterwards.


That said, this was a fantastic production. The sheer size of the cast and set is amazing. Kelli O'Hara is terrific. Wanatabe is very good, too, although I had a little trouble understanding him. I would certainly go again. This was what musicals are all about.

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  • 2 weeks later...


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