The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, is a theatrical classic; a tale of East meets West, imbued with deeper themes of love in different forms, of respect, of facing the unknown, of equality, of traditions, of internal conflict, of resistance and change. Dallas Summer Musicals’ self-production of The King and I is a rich, textured imagining of this story.
Rachel York is truly the highlight of this production; her portrayal of Anna Leonowens calls to mind a young Julie Andrews. From her first appearance, York’s Anna captures your attention and sympathy as she comes to Siam and meets the stubborn but charismatic King, energetically acted by Alan Ariano. As Anna and the King get to know one another throughout the play, their clashes serve to highlight how alike they are in willfulness, intellect and independence. Though Ariano’s King is often played with humor, he also conveys the King’s love for his children and country, and his internal dilemmas as he seeks to bring his nation into a modern age.
Passionately-sung performances from Yoonjeong Seong as the young concubine Tuptim, and Devin Ilaw as her forbidden lover Lun Tha, bring elements of both romance and tragedy. A talented supporting cast, including the young actors as the Royal Children, provides an enchanting chorus, especially in the iconic song, “Getting to Know You”.
The show fell flat in the unresolved tension and romance between our two leads; their mutual attraction despite their differences felt downplayed, and the chemistry between York and Ariano fizzled more than it sparked. The exception to this was the dance scene for “Shall We Dance” – with Rodgers lush music, Anna’s swirling ballgown and the King’s enthusiasm as he leads her around the stage, you can’t help but smile and feel a tug at your heartstrings.
With strong performances, timeless music, and beautiful sets, lighting and costumes, Dallas Summer Musicals’ The King and I delivers a highly enjoyable evening at the theatre. The play runs through April 5 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.