Thursday, October 20, 2005

The King and I

Last night my mother and I went to the Sid and were highly entertained by the opening night of Rainbow Youth Theatre's production of "The King and I".

I have to say it intrigued me enough thatI need to go and find a copy of the 1956 film version with Yul Brynner.

It's a tale set in the late 19th century, the story of a British schoolteacher hired by the king of Siam to educate his numerous royal children in the English language.

Anna soon finds herself feeling very out of place in the palace of Siam where people prostrate themselves at the feet of the king, concubines abound, and beautiful girls arrive at court as gifts from neighbouring princes. She's kept very busy teaching the children their lessons, and the King a thing or two on propriety and compassion and British opinion. He is alternately intrigued and outraged by her influence on his household.

The King begrudgingly acknowledges that Western ways are becoming the way of the world and fears that his country will become disadvantaged if his children don't learn those ways. He is particularly dismayed when he hears rumours Queen Victoria herself might regard his royal self as a barbarian! When British dignitaries come calling, he hopes that Anna can also help him out with his little image problem.

But only if it looks like he's not taking advice from a woman. That just wouldn't be kingly.

The story revolves around the quarrelsome and yet affectionate friendship that evolves between two very different people. They are at times appalled and flabbergasted at each other but in the end come to a deep respect of one another despite their differences.

Along with all this is a lot of singing and energetic ball-room dancing, and elegant Thai silk costumes and a giant paper elephant, and lots of very cute little children. Also, a very surreal but brilliant play-within-a-play: a Buddhist interpretation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in eerie Thai masks. Now, I wasn't expecting THAT.

You see, I'd never seen any version of this musical before. I knew the basic plot, I knew it was loosely based on real people,and I knew that even today in Thailand "The King and I" is a sensitive subject and was even banned, at least for a while.

But some of the music was oddly familiar.

I thought and thought about where I had heard a particular song, "Getting to Know You"...and then I had this mental flash of a scene from the Addams Family movie of Morticia and Gomez sitting stone-faced in an audience of beaming parents in a school auditorium. The kids on stage in the movie are dressed up in cutesy flower costumes as they sing the self-same "Getting to Know You" number from "The King and I". You can tell Morticia and Gomez would slowly die inside if they were forced to watch more performances like this.

I have friends who might agree with Morticia. However, I liked it.

Well, I'm rambling. In summation, I'm glad we went to "The King and I". Now I can only hope the library will have the video in their oldies section. :)


Grant said...

You should consider NetFlix. They have the Yul Brenner version, an animated version, and the latest remake "Anna and the King."

Tai said...

Didn't the do one with Jodie Foster?
Mind you, I don't think that one was a musical.

Pol* said...

I have the animated one, and I highly recommend you SKIP IT! It was nasty. I am intrigued by the 1956 on too, and I haven't seen Jodie Foster's version "Anna and the King" (no I really don't think that one is a musical either -- more of a historical drama)

Renee said...

The original is by far the best. This was one of the first videos I bought for Ciarnan. I have loved "The King and I" since I was a child. I remember falling for Yul Brenner, he was so handsome. I think he was my first "older man". I'm a little embarrassed to say I didn't hate "Anna and the King".