Liverpool Empire – until 21 March 2020
Reviewed by Charlotte McWilliam
“A delightful evening of a classic musical in all it’s splendour.”
The story of Anna, an English School teacher who tries to help an Eastern King to become part of the modern world, but he is unable to resist the forces of ancient customs.
Live music under the direction of Malcolm Forbes-Peckham. A great live sound starting with a strong and buoyant overture, really adding to an enjoyable evening.
Choreography originally by Jerome Robbins and magically recreated by Christopher Gattelli, was clean and well executed, a particular favourite moment being the ballet in Act 2. I believe that the choreography has been passed down from choreographer to choreographer all the way down to Greg Zane, US associate choreographer.
The attention to detail with the traditional and authentic set, props and clever use of lighting was incredible; a serene start with a pink sky backdrop as the boat arrives at the port, instantaneously transported us to 1860’s Siam. A particular favourite was the use of moving pillars which cleverly created the effect of walking through the Palace grounds. 22000 flowers suspended on vines from the ceiling to set the iconic garden scene was particularly impressive; each one made by hand.
Complimented by Catherine Zuber’s stunning costumery, the creative team really used all the right ingredients to produce an authentically, successful take on such a classic production.
I’ll take a moment now to praise the perfect casting of each role in the performance, we were truly shipped overseas for the evening, every accent and mannerism was perfect.
The lovely leading lady Annalene Beechey, did a wonderful job as Anna Leonowens, a beautiful soft soprano vocal, and an engaging onstage chemistry with the King of Siam, Darren Lee who had a gentle humour throughout. Comedic timings between the two were expertly delivered, under the direction of Bartlett Sher. A highlight of the duo was in Act 2 when they performed the iconic ‘Shall we Dance?’ Beechey’s voice softly soared and Lee’s endearing comical acting was felt by the audience and reflected in a rippling sea of participation clapping to the Polka.
Neither Beechey or Lee put a foot out of place all night, and they were truly charming.
I really enjoyed the moments with Tumptim and Lun Tha, Jessica Gomez-ng and Ethan Le Phong; stunning vocals particularly during ‘We Kiss In The Shadows.’
Gomez-ng had great clarity and excellent presence in such a gentle and sensitive role. A strong likeness to a young Lea Salonga.
I’d like to praise the ensemble, each and every one talented and adding something.
A favourite moment for me was ‘The March Of Siamese Children’ featuring some extremely cute Princes and Princesses. A few were very young making their professional stage debuts. The affection shown on stage between the King of Siam and the child cast was heart warming.
All in all a great evening at The Empire, and another success for the production team and cast. A delightful evening of a classic musical in all it’s splendour.