Review: The King and I crowns theatre company’s reputation

Perhaps it’s the difficulty of getting so many children on board or the expense of hiring lavish costumes but The King and I seems to be way down the list of musicals for amateur companies to stage these days.

It’s a shame because the Rodgers & Hammerstein creation really is a delightful show, pointing up the differences in culture of the new and old world and the behaviour of servants and royalty.

The King and I presented by Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company at Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield

The King and I presented by Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company at Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield

Add 20 children and well-sung popular numbers such as Whistle A Happy Tune, Hello, Young Lovers, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance? and it has hit written all over it.

Handworth & Hallam Theatre Company have transformed the stage at Sheffield’s Montgomery Theatre into the King of Siam’s palace this week to re-enact the story of an imperious ruler and his headstrong governess.

Its charm lies in the respectfulness of the Siamese servants towards a tyrant of a ruler who claps and clicks his fingers to signify his bidding and picks up his tiniest offspring like a bag of shopping.

His harem of wives and dozens of children scoot around the stage with hands clasped in prayerful fashion, bowing and scraping when he hoves into view.

This colourful, magical production contains exquisite movement in a ballet inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin which reflects the traditional dance of Siam and in a heart-warming scene where the king realises he has feelings for his governess as they waltz around the stage.

The feisty governess who brings her Western ways to Siam is played by Louise Walker whose husband Adam directs the production. She gives a lovely portrayal of the softly-spoken Englishwoman who has a steely determination to break the rigid, outdated behaviour of the king and show him the error of his ways. Louise’s singing is as perfect as her characterisation, prompting one viewer to say that people would be hard pressed to find a better leading lady in a professional production.

Davron Hicks is a real find for the company with his commanding presence in the role of the King and a voice that fills the auditorium, whether it be singing or expressing his disapproval at those who dare cross him.

One such rebel is Tuptim, the slave gifted to the king who tries to escape his clutches and comes close to being whipped for dishonouring him. Tuptim is in the safe hand of Joelle Brabban, a student of Dronfield Academy of Dance and Theatre, who is playing her last role before she takes up a course in acting at the prestigious Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

Her opposite number, Lun Tha, is played by John Crowther whose singing augurs well for a principal role in the not too distant future.

Fiona Hannon gives a suitably respectful performance as Lady Thiang, the King’s chief wife, and Steve Mather brings an air of dismissive haughtiness to the king’s right-hand man, The Kralahome.

The King and I is right royal entertainment from the top-notch singing of the principals to the charm of cute kids who are dressed in jewel-coloured costumes.

It continues its run at the Montgomery Theatre, tonight (Friday, June 13) and tomorrow night at 7.30pm and tomorrow afternoon at 2.15pm. For tickets, contact 07586 293 546 or www.hhtc.info

GAY BOLTON