‘King’ dances into Riverside

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By Stephanie Holland

Center Stage (Image Courtesy of Chuck Abernathy)

By Stephanie Holland

With the bang of a gong Landis Performing Arts Center is transformed into the ancient kingdom of Siam, in Performance Riverside’s Feb. 9 production of “The King and I.” The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was presented as part of the theater company’s 2007-2008 season.

“The King and I” is the story of English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens trip to Siam to teach the King and his family the ways of the western world. Stage veteran Barbara Hinrichsen starred as Anna.

Hinrichsen’s operatic range added lightness to the otherwise harsh character of Anna. She came off as naive and annoying in her inability to adapt to her new surroundings.

Luckily, her character was balanced by the strong presence of Jeff Griggs as the King.

While Griggs easily brings out the King’s strength and conviction, he taps into a comic quality that has been previously overlooked in other adaptations. These comic elements added dimension to a story that feels a little dated and out of touch in these modern times.

In a cast of strong performers, one standout was Natalie Ramirez as Tuptim, the King’s new mistress.

Tuptim views her life in the palace as that of a slave. Her only happiness comes in the form of a secret romance. It is her story that gives the show its heart. Ramirez’s dynamic vocal talent made her the shining star in an otherwise dull show.

The other standout performance was given by Melanie Alpert as Lady Tiang, the King’s head wife.

In the many presentations of the classic story this character is often overpowered by the lead roles. However, in this production Alpert captivated the audience with her portrayal of Lady Tiang’s unwavering love and support of the King. The unrequited love Lady Tiang has for the King was brought to life perfectly.

The overall look of the show was well put together with opulent costumes and stimulating set design.

The set pieces along with the strong cast were let down by the slow pacing of the show. Clocking in at three hours long, there were times when the audience’s attention seemed to wander.

Overall this production of “The King and I” was well put together and performed, however due to bad timing and characters that were hard to relate to, it cannot be considered a hit.

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