After "The Sound of Music", my aunt and I watched the Philippine production of "The King and I" at the Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater. That was over the weekend. I have always been puzzled why I couldn't seem to finish watching the movie version of this play, even if it was the 1956 film starring Yul Brynner. And I actually fell asleep when I was watching the 1999 Anna and the King film! (That's the one with Jodie Foster as Anna. To my defense, I did have jet lag at the time)
The matinee show was led by Bo Cerrudo as King Mongkut of Siam and by Sheila Valderrama as Anna Leonowens. Bo Cerrudo is great as the King, but Yul Brynner had made the role synonymous to him that it's difficult to imagine someone else playing the part. In fact, I don't even remember who Anna was in the 1956 movie. On the other hand, the stellar performance of Sheila Valderrama kept teacher Anna Leonowens from being overshadowed by the King. The artist who played Lady Thiang was the perfect example of poise, dignity, and grace... truly the first of the King's many wives. The dancers who performed Uncle Tom's Cabin, particularly Eliza, were so good!
Then there were the sets. I particularly liked the intricate detail of the palace sets with the gold elephants. It must have taken ages to create those! The ugh factor in "The Sound of Music" was the digital, highly pixelated imagery in the backdrop; it was a big distraction. But in "The King and I", the set designer made sure that the LED screen enhanced the scenery (like temple view from a balcony or a window), not drew attention from the actors. I just didn't like the presence of the TV screens at the sides of the theater; these got me confused -- Where should I look? The stage? The TV monitors?
At the end of the show, I realized why I didn't finish seeing the whole thing in the movies: the show was three hours long!
If there was one thing that made watching The King and I a challenge, it was the presence of a lot of children in the audience. By the time the play had finished the first act, kids were standing on their seats or talking loudly, or running all over... with their guardians not seeming to mind! Next time I'd watch a play like this, I'd go to a gala performance, that's for sure.