“The King and I” remains musty and outdated — its ideas about race relations are obviously from 50 years ago — the Payson Community Theatre production of it has a certain amount of charm and talent behind it.
Directed by Michael Carrasco, the show boasts a cast of more than 60 adults and children, with a lovely Siamese palace set designed by Carrasco and Steve Twede. There’s a live orchestra, too (conducted by Sherrie Dunford), which is uncommon these days.
Anne Hunt Flinders is strong as Anna, the English woman who comes to Siam to teach the king’s many children and eventually to help Siam enter the modern world. Her lilting voice is pleasant to hear, and her acting is solid.
Her co-star, Steve Poulsen as the king, does a great job keeping in character while singing. Every scene between Anna and the king is funny and energetic, with much verbal sparring between them.
The scene in which the youngsters produce an adaptation of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (“The Small House of Uncle Thomas”) is an abstract, artistic affair — much more so than is typical of community theater, even for this scene in this show. The movement is beautiful.
Some judicious cutting of the show would have been good. The scene where each of the king’s many children walks in and bows before him seems endless, and it serves no real purpose other than letting all the grandparents in the audience beam with pride. A show in which nothing really happens for the first 45 minutes shouldn’t get so far off track so early. The secondary romance, the forbidden love between Lun Tha (Blake Draper) and Tuptim (Amy Beth Spotten), never really gets off the ground, either.
The racism in the show is downplayed considerably, thank goodness. Siamese customs are not mocked so heavily nor made to appear especially ridiculous or backwards. Rodgers and Hammerstein no doubt had good intentions, but they wrote in a different era. This production doesn’t exactly modernize the show, but it acknowledges some of the shortcomings and deals with them as well as it can.
Sharp-eyed readers will recall that the director of this show, Michael Carrasco, played the lead in the 1997 production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Dorothy Carrasco, who I'm guessing is his mother, plays a servant here and wrote a letter in defense of her son's show in 1997.