The King and I

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“The King and I” isn’t exactly a rootin’-tootin’ sort of musical anyway — it does end with a major character’s death, you’ll recall — but the slow pace of the SCERA production makes it seem particularly dismal.

More energy is called for, as well as a better memorization of the dialogue and just a general picking up of the pace. Often, there is too much pause between the end of one person’s line and the start of the next person’s. We’re talking about halves of seconds here, but the overall impact is one of stony silence.

Two scenes do stand out as very charming, however. One is near the end of the first act, when the king wants Anna’s advice but his pride won’t allow him to ask for it. The coy interplay between the actors, Lyle Mortimer and Karlene Young, is believable and engaging, and those traits are mirrored in the other noteworthy scene, which is when Anna teaches the king to dance.

Young has a beautiful, lilting voice and she handles all of Anna’s songs with perfect grace. Mortimer’s voice is good, too, and he remains in character while using it — vital in his soliloquy songs like “A Puzzlement.”

I was also touched by Nannette Wiggins’ sincere performance of “Something Wonderful,” in which Lady Thiang pleads with Anna to help the king.

The show’s subplot, involving secret lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim, is problematic. The actors are Victor Camacho and Lindsay Dodge, and Camacho looks to be about 20 years older. Not only does this lend an air of creepiness to a relationship that should be young and reckless, but it also ruins any chance there may have been of onstage chemistry. The Lun Tha/Tuptim scenes, though certainly acted with earnestness, add almost nothing to the show.

The director is Robinne Booth, who corralled a large number of cute kids into behaving properly. The costumes, credited to Lori McClure, are gorgeous. Leslea Osborne’s choreography is serviceable, particularly in that strange “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” interpretive dance number.

I question the use of so much bronze body makeup, since by the end of the show most of it has rubbed off and the people of Siam look to be victims of a strange skin condition. But what’s a little jaundice among friends, right?

Should you go? If “The King and I” is a sentimental favorite for you, this production may tide you over. Otherwise, it is rather flat.

This was a production of the Pleasant Grove Players that SCERA hosted but had nothing to do with -- a fact that was carefully pointed out to me by SCERA when I forgot to mention it in the review. (Presumably, if it had been a really positive review, they'd have had no problem taking credit for it. But I kid the SCERA.) It was an oversight on my part, and ought to have been mentioned in the review.

When I mentioned to a friend that they had used bronze makeup to make everyone look more Siamese, he asked if they also used Scotch tape to pull back their eyes into a more slanted position. I said no; that would be silly.

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