The Alhambra Theatre opened Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wonderful musical, The King and I, which has won many Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was later made into a film starring Yul Brynner which won several Academy Awards. The story is that of Anna, an English governess (Kelly Atkins) who is hired in the early 1860’s to educate the children of the King of Siam (Tony Romero) and prepare them for the modern world. This proves more of a job than she had expected, as she finds a domineering autocratic ruler whose intimidated and submissive subjects value tradition and fear change. What makes this musical particularly interesting is that it’s based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a real-life governess to the royal Siamese court.
This musical has been around for 60 years and has had many successful revivals. In the hands of Director Tod Booth, and an energetic and inspired cast, it is as delightful and enjoyable a performance as we’ve ever seen of this classic.
The fabulous Kelly Atkins has been having a banner year in 2010. After completing a run of Amorous Crossing with Loretta Swit that set attendance records at the Alhambra, she went on to mesmerize audiences with her marvelous voice as Mabel in Pirates of Penzance, a joint production by the Alhambra and the Jacksonville Symphony. Ms. Atkins’s strong stage presence and fantastic voice as Anna adds up to a memorable performance.
With bare feet and shaved head, Tony Romero makes a marvelous king, who sings well, and has excellent comic timing. Having seen a number of actors in this role, including Yul Brynner in London in 1977, we can confidently state that Mr. Romero ranks right up there with the best. The comic moments between Akins and Romero are the glue that really makes this show.