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Friday, May 8, 2015

Flashback Friday: The King and I - 1996

One of the biggest hits of the season is the wonderful revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center.  I found it to be wonderfully directed and acted.  Bartlett Sher proves again that he is a master at the classics and utilizing the difficult space at the Vivian Beaumont.  Kelli O'Hara is her usual terrific self, and Ruthie Ann Miles creates a riveting and complex Lady Thiang.  I'm pretty sure this is the revival to beat come June 8th.

But, as much as I enjoyed it, this is not my favorite visit with Anna and the King.  That honor goes to the Tony-winning revival of 1996, starring Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips.  Both created complex, compelling portraits of people caught up in the clash of East meeting West.  Murphy, a Tony-winner for her efforts, and Phillips, a controversy-free nominee, commanded the stage with a ferocity reminiscent of a boxing match, going toe-to-toe with passion and, more importantly, chemistry.  They were utterly charming and the romantic tension between them was palpable.


The King and I now (above) and then (below)

It was also a complete King and I, with whole sections of dance numbers and text fully restored - most famously, The Procession of the White Elephant.  And the design was breathtaking from curtain to curtain with sumptuous (and Tony-winning) costumes and sets from Roger Kirk and Brian Thompson, respectively.  As nice and fitting as the current designs are, the 2015 version just doesn't hold a candle to what was onstage 19 years ago.  As wonderful as today's revival is, the 90's revival has it beaten on just about every point.







Let me know what you think - especially if you saw both productions, too! (Tweet me at @jkstheatrescene, or e-mail me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com, or leave a comment below!)

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