Superb voices shine in Scarborough Theatre’s The King and I

Thomas Volpe

Staff Writer

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical classic The King and I is at the Scarborough Theatre until the middle of November. The musical follows an English schoolteacher who travels to Siam in the 1860s to teach the King’s royal sons and daughters. Her disapproval of Siam’s somewhat barbaric culture causes her to butt heads with the hard-headed royal leader. With a British diplomat set to arrive and visit the country, the two must work together to show off the best of Siam. With themes of forbidden love, slavery and sexism, this version of the musical manages to maintain its lightheartedness, while highlighting these rather serious themes.

The excellent cast features several powerful singers, an array of adorable little princes and princesses and a lead making his return to The King and I two decades later. The Scarborough Music Theatre Company’s version of this musical theatre standard is both charming and engrossing.

Richard Kwong stars as the King and makes his return to this particular show after appearing in the Scarborough Music Theatre’s 1994 production of The King and I. Kwong is a commanding presence onstage and light on his feet, as showcased in the beloved “Shall We Dance?”

Alongside Kwong is Laurie Hurst as the schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, whose dynamic singing voice is at the top of an impressive group of singers in the cast. Supporting these two leads are young talents Olivia Jon and Jason Nunez as forsaken lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha. Both possess remarkable singing voices; the moment Nunez begins singing in “We Kiss in a Shadow” is an eye-opener, for sure.

The leads are backed by a youthful supporting cast. 10 children, the princes and princesses of Siam, and a host of wives, make up the royal family of the King of Siam. They are an energetic group and a sight to behold onstage, thanks in part to the diverse collection of costumes on display throughout the show. Costume Co-ordinator Heather Hyslop expertly crafts unique, colourful costumes for each member of the cast.

There is certainly a lot to enjoy in this rendition of The King and I. It is a vibrant and youthful version of a classic, featuring a collection of superb singers and talented voices. While the main love story seems downplayed, given the age of most of the cast, it seems a prudent choice and one that does not take away from the overall production.

The King and I, directed by Jacqui Burke, runs at the Scarborough Village Theatre until November 15th. Visit www.theatrescarborough.com for details.