London Palladium – The King and I

Period pieces or modern plays?

I prefer modern plays I have to say, or the stories set not earlier than the First World War. For me even Shakespeare set in the 20th century is much more interesting. It’s all about the taste and personal preference, but feels nice to travel in the past sometimes.

 

Theatre

The London Palladium is in the Really Useful Theatres Group covered in my Adelphi theatre post. Really Useful Theatres Group recently rebranded to LW Theatres (Lloyd Webber Theatres).

The London Palladium opened on Boxing Day 1910 with a variety performance and venue soon became known as a the “Ace Variety Theatre of the World”, hosting annual Royal Variety Performance and London’s most spectacular pantomimes. The London Palladium hosted its first Royal Variety Performance in 1930. Starting from the following year the theatre became home for the famous Crazy Gang, group of 6 British entertainers. The theatre was closed for a short time during the Blitz. In the 1950s and 1960s the London Palladium hosted pantomimes, Sunday night shows and also invited many American starts, including Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey and others, to perform on its stage. In 1968, the theatre had its first proper musical show, Golden Boy, and since then has hosted mainly musicals, while keeping the tradition of pantomimes and Sunday nights. The London Palladium became a Really Useful Theatre in 2000. The theatre was renovated in 2011 after celebrating the 100 year anniversary. In recent years the London Palladium hosted stage interviews with Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone in addition to the variety of pantomimes, musicals, concerts and Sunday nights.

 

Plot

In 1862, the widowed British teacher, Anna Leonowens arrives in Bangkok with his son on the invitation of the King of Siam (Thailand) to teach the King’s offsprings. Anna finds out that she is supposed to live in the palace, whereas she was promised a separate house by the King. She insists on having a separate house, but agrees to go to the palace to speak to the King. The meeting takes place after a few weeks’ wait, but the King ignores her request completely and presents his many wives and children to Anna. Educating his family by Western standards is part of the King’s plan to modernise Siam. Anna starts performing her duty, but not having her house request fulfilled she teaches her students poems and songs referring to home. The King is exasperated by these references and calls Anna a servant who is supposed to do as she is told. Anna is insulted and leaves the room intending to depart from Siam. The King’s head wife implores Anna to not leave the King now, as he needs her help even though he would never admit it. The King is expecting a visit from the British envoy to evaluate the situation in Siam and either concur or reject the idea that the King is a barbarian. Anna goes to the King and offers to organise a welcoming party for the British envoy in Western style, where the women will be dressed in European style and they will present Uncle Tom’s Cabin adapted to stage by the King’s new wife, a slave girl gifted by the King of Burma, with Siamese traditional dance. The evening goes well, at the end of which the British envoy announces to the King that the British Empire is not considering taking Siam under its ,,protection”. Anna and the King are celebrating together when the secret police announces that the King’s wife, Tuptim, the gift from the King of Burma, who went missing earlier was found on a ship and she is suspected in having an affair with Lun Tha, a scholar from Burma who escorted her on her trip to Siam. The King gets ready to whip Tuptim despite Anna’s attempts to dissuade him, but at the last minute he fails to swing the whip and rushes out of the room. Lun Tha is found dead and Tuptim is dragged off. Anna decides to leave Siam for good and spends a few months away from the palace. When she is ready to leave the crown prince informs her that the King is on his death bed. Anna hurries to the palace. The King is happy to see her and as his dying wish asks her to stay in Siam and assist the next king. Anna promises to do so and the King passes away in peace.

 

Production

The musical is based on Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which by itself is based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. The musical was created by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II. It premiered in 1951, at Broadway’s St. James Theatre. The King and I will be running at the Palladium until end of September.

Director:          Bartlett Sher

Producers:       A Concord Music Company, Daniel Brodie, Matt Parritt

Casting:          James Orange

casting@jamesorange.com

020 3393 2612

Linear House, Peyton Place, Greenwich, London, SE10 8RS

 

Ticket

Bought my ticket from the box office just before the show. £78.5 for a front middle seat in the dress circle. It’s a perfect seat with a great view. I have to admit I was with a friend, who is an elderly lady willing to indulge herself with an expensive seat, otherwise I would have found an O.K. seat with a good view at a lower price.

Running time is 2 hours 55 minutes

The Theatre Rat

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