The Muny closes their 2012 season with the revival of a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. It's an elegant end to a very entertaining season that's been full of surprises. Here, the only surprise is how well this warhorse has aged, with its "East meets West", or "mismatched mates" device still working to perfection. Of course, it helps if you have quality performances from the leads, combined with the energetic direction of Rob Ruggerio.
Basically, it's the adventures of a British schoolteacher who's brought to Siam (it's based on the 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam) by the King to help with modernizing what the world would see as a rather backwards country, especially from a cultural standpoint. And, thus the plot device is set in motion, with Anna and the King enduring an obvious romance with one another, even though neither is able to express it as such.
Kevin Gray is sharp as the King, and he's well-matched with Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna. Theirs is a fragile kind of love forbidden by decorum, but expressed rigorously in dance with the ever-amusing "Shall We Dance" number. This pair is supported in their efforts by the Muny Kids, all clothed in their colorful oriental outfits by costumer Robin McGee, and by the nice work of Joan Almedilla (Lady Thiang), Joshua Dela Cruz (Lun Tha), and Alan Ariano (the Kralahome).
Rob Ruggerio's direction keeps this venerable stage piece lively (choreography by Ralph Perkins), lush (with a fully staffed orchestra headed by Brad Haak), and eye catching (scenic design by Michael Schweikardt). The action is also dramatically lit by John Lasiter. It makes this time tested warrior an effective diversion that's well worth catching.
And, you couldn't have any nicer weather for this time of year, so do yourself a favor and spend at least one evening (through 8/12/2012) with The King and I at The Muny in Forest Park.