"The King and I" opened on Broadway in March 1951, and director Daniel Stewart has made the musical warhorse whinny again.
In between the glorious music and royal pageantry of the Rogers and Hammerstein masterpiece are its everlasting themes of forbidden love, man's desire to control women and the clash of cultures.
Based on a real-life memoir, "The King and I" tells the story of a 28-year-old English woman, Anna Leonowens, who is hired by King Mongkut of Siam to serve as governess to his 67 children. Adding to the plot are Tuptim, a young woman who has been given as a gift to the king, and her lover, Lun Tha.
Lego Louis plays the headstrong King of Siam with just the right balance of arrogance and vulnerability. He especially connects with the audience in a scene where he considers his duties as a father. Susannah Kenton, likewise, is able to portray Anna's gentility as well as her strength.
Fausto Pineda and Eunha Jung, as the lovers, deliver dynamic duets, and strong-voiced Wen Zhang, who plays the king's head wife, gives the musical a hint of opera.
Most interesting are the use of traditional Thai theater and dance to tell Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the red-and-gold procession toward the end of the nearly three-hour musical.
"The King and I" is a dazzling spectacle and entertains throughout, but one should never embrace its ill-guided underlying notion: that in order to be considered "civilized," other cultures must toss out their own customs and beliefs and adopt those of Westerners.
"The King and I" began its three-performance run Saturday afternoon at the Lied Center. The final performance is at 2 p.m. today.
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.