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Watching "The King and I" in the Durian in Singapore

Alex Tang

Last Friday evening, I watched the stage performance of The King and I at the Esplanade Theatre on the Bay (the Durian). I have been looking forward to watching this stage play the whole month. I have enjoyed the movie version and am now eager to watch a live stage performance. This musical is based on a true story and is also based on a novel by Margaret Landon, Anna and the King of Siam. Landon based her novel on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a 19th century Englishwoman who became governess to the children of the King of Siam.

The musical was a Rodgers and Hammerstein's production with memorable songs like "Shall we dance?", "Hello, Young Lovers", and "I Have Dreamed." The King and I opened on Broadway on March 29. 1951, where it was shown for three years (1,246 performances). It received five Tony Awards.


In 1956, The King and I musical movie was released starring Deborah Kerr as Anna and Yul Brynner (who stared as the King on Broadway) reprising his role as the King. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and received five. In Singapore, Anna was played by Brianna Borger and King Mongkut of Siam by Paul Nakauchi.


While enjoying the wonderful music and lyrics, the fascinating backdrops, the exciting choreography and the wonderful cast, it was the story of the King of Siam that fascinates me. Here is a man who realises that his country is in danger of being made into a protectorate by the British and tries his best to bring his country into the 'scientific' modern age. Hence he employs an English woman as a school teacher to his children. He realises that education is the key to the survival of his country and his family. Yet this also means betraying his culture and tradition by adopting a "western" approach. The clash of civilization is at times both hilarious and sad.
The King is tormented by inner struggles as he wrestled to be a good King, a good Buddhist, a good husband (to many wives) and a good father. In his struggles, his humanity comes out clearly as he struggles between compassion and duty. I cannot help but identify with him in his pride, his pain and his loss. Clearly this is a great man who struggles to be human, to be a good man in circumstances that would not allow him to be so.

Paul Nakauchi performs superbly as the KING but it is difficult to fill in the shoes left behind by Yul Brynner.






|posted 17 August 2007|


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