There was a moment during The King & I’s first act when the King’s children arrive on stage when I couldn’t stop staring at Prince Chulalongkorn. I knew I’d seen him before, but it took a few minutes before I realized it was Matthew Uzarraga. My first thought was “he looks so much older than he did the last time I saw him on stage.” This is the beauty of watching child actors grow up on stage. I saw Matthew just a few months ago on stage at the Paramount Theatre Aurora as Schwartz in A Christmas Story the Musical. For some reason, he seemed much older than he had during the past holiday season.
It’s funny what captures your attention during a performance. The King & I is a visually stunning production. Jean-Marc Puissant created gorgeous, layered sets that are elegant in their simplicity. Sue Blane’s costumes are breathtakingly beautiful. During intermission, several audience members were overheard talking about how the luxurious fabrics added such beauty to the performances.
And, the performances were beautiful to behold. Kate Baldwin and Paolo Montalban performed an intricate dance as they moved from employer/employee to unrequired lovers. Lady Thiang (Rona Figueroa) recognized the subtle change in their relationship long before either the King or Anna would admit it. In many ways it was Lady Thiang who understood how the relationship would benefit the King’s entire court and manipulated both parties to her advantage.
From the King to his youngest daughter, the performances radiated from the stage. You paused when Captain Orton (John Lister) tried to warn Anna about how different life in Siam will be for her and her young son. You felt the pain Tuptim (Ali Ewoldt) felt when she was given to the King as a gift from her country. You rooted for her and Lun Tha (Sam Simahk) to make their escape to happiness. When the King’s children took the stage you could hear an audible “awwwww” rustle through the audience. It’s a low murmur kind of sound as if the audience knew they shouldn’t make a sound, but could not help themselves.
The King & I is a wonderful production for families. On the surface it’s a love story between a man and a women. Underneath you have the tension between the old world and the new. As with many stories, the parent watches as his child makes the changes he was unable to implement. As parents, we all want a better world for our children. Through his vision the King was able to provide that, even if the sweeping changes made by Prince Chulalongkorn far exceeded the King’s original vision.
The King & I runs through May 22 at the Lyric Opera Chicago. This lush production is a wonderful way to spend an evening or afternoon with your family. From your children to your parents, there is a story line to captivate everyone. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Lyric Opera Chicago.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of the Lyric Opera. Kate Baldwin in rehearsal for Lyric Opera’s The King and I. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
Disclosure: I did receive media passes to attend the show. My words and opinions are my own.
Category: Shari's Corner