Tony Award Winners–1952 The King and I

7 Mar

the king and I

 

While not being always racially sensitive, The King and I is so darned likable that it almost gets away with it.   I don’t think the play is racist, however, it certainly seeing the people of Siam as being the “exotic other” rather than a group of people with different customs.   At the same time, if we saw the play as coming from Anna’s point of view, and how the exotic-ness fades as she sees the humanity in all these people, it’s quite forgivable (though it still is a bit pushy in the “England’s way is the right way” sort of doings>)

Yul Brynner got the role of a lifetime.  Yes he’s been in other things, but he spent his life in this role, and many people to this day know him as the King of Siam.  Even new productions tend to have the King resemble Brynner more than what the real king of Siam looked like.   And he plays it perfectly–strong and intelligent, full of curiosity and energy, he throws himself into the role, and even though his voice isn’t perfect, we don’t want it to be, we want him to be the king.

Gertrude Lawrence as Anna by all accounts was splendid.   She was known to be a big presence on the stage.  However, her voice is a bit shaky on the soundtrack–this is one time, for listening purposes, that I think the movie soundtrack is just a wee bit better.   I love the march of the King’s children, and of course Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance, and Whistle a Happy Tune.   I couldn’t care less about the subplot with the lovers, but it’s a mild distraction, focusing on the battle between the sexes that goes between Anna and the King.     Rogers and Hammerstein were in full cutesy children mode, here, and the kids can be a little bit much at times.

Oklahoma, Carousel, and The Sound of Music are the best Rogers and Hammerstein works, but The King and I comes just below that in my estimation.  A very nice and humane work.

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