Lincoln Center is presenting a wonderful new production of The King and I. I hadn’t seen the movie, or any productions of the show, in quite a while, and I’d wondered if the proceedings might seem sentimental or politically hopeless – if you’ve never seen it, The King and I concerns Anna Leonowens, an Englishwoman brought to Siam in 1861 to tutor the King’s many wives and children. The show is staggeringly good, and far more serious, witty and smart than I’d remembered. It manages to cover slavery, the introduction of Western habits into an Eastern culture, and some very potent sexual politics, all set to a sumptuous Rodgers and Hammerstein score, which makes an awful lot of more recent music seem puny. Here’s a clip from the movie, starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner. This number arrives towards the end of the show, after scenes of suspense and harsh disagreement, so the song’s romance becomes even sexier and more powerful.
April 23, 2015