The story of The King and I, based on the memoirs of a widowed mother and her son relocating from 19th England to Siam to teach King Mongkut’s many children, focuses on cultural differences, repressed emotions and unrequited love. 

Kelli O’Hara, as the titular Anna, holds this show together and makes it the joy that it is. She effortlessly soars in both singing and emotional intensity and is a perfect counter-foil to Ken Watanabe’s, at times, comical King.

The big supporting cast shine brightly throughout: notably Na-Young Jeon’s Tipton, and Dean John-Wilson’s Lun Tha. The King’s many children are delightful, and provide obvious charm and humour. 

The costumes, like the set designs, are suitably opulent, from the traditional Siamese performance outfits to Anna’s voluptuously satin cage crinoline dresses (which the King’s many wives utilise to great effect in one memorable scene!)

A standing ovation at the end for what was a joyful, old-school classic musical done with style and panache.

The King and I is at London Palladium until 29 September 

Review: Matt Evans

Photo: Matthew Murphy