In this visit to New York City my husband and I saw three Broadway shows. By far this is the largest number of Broadway shows we saw in one visit.
The first show we saw was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. I had expected much from this version of The King and I since I read rave reviews of the show. In addition, the Japanese actor Ken Watanabe was playing the role of the king. In the past, I did not see either musical or film version of The King and I since it smacked of the continuation of the pre-WWII Colonialism sentiment. But, I wanted to see the musical because Ken Watanabe was nominated for the Tony Award and the leading actress Kelli O’Hara received the Tony Award.
When I received the playbill as we arrived at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center I was disappointed to know that the king was not played by Ken Watanabe. An additional disappointment was caused by the fact that the role of Anna would not be played by Kelli O’Hara in this particular performance but rather by Betsy Morgan, who was not even an understudy. Nevertheless I expected something good because this revival version of The King and I did receive the Tony Award.
The King and I was a typical Broadway show with its lavish production design and desire to entertain the audience. It was spectacular and entertaining. I cannot tell how this production of the musical which was directed by Bartlett Sher (who used to work at Intiman’s Theater in Seattle) was different from others, but I can say that this new version may be a little more culturally sensitive trying to avoid uncritical cultural imperialism. In the end, the East gets destroyed by the West, as symbolized by the iconic presentation of the king on his death bed (I thought Jose Llama who played the king looked a little too young, by the way), but it ends rather happily by having Anna decide to stay in Siam as a teacher and making the prince declare the new law for the Siam, suggesting that what dies would be what was feudalistic and inhumane with Siam.