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The King and I - Nottingham's Theatre Royal Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson

You sometimes can't beat a good old classic musical and Rogers and Hammerstein's work usually delivers in its excellence. The Lincoln Center's production of The King and I which is touring the UK more than lives up to the expectation and delights audiences both old and young.

Yuki Ozeki (Little Eva). Photo by Pamela Raith Photography

Set in 1860s Bangkok, the show follows the turbulent relationship between the King of Siam and Anna, a British schoolteacher that the King has hired to teach his vast array of wives and children. This revival under director Bartlett Sher this version fires a more feminist message into the piece whilst managing to avoid any stereotypes. 

Michael Yeargan's design is understated allowing for the performances to draw focus, although Catherine Zuber's gorgeous costumes are the crowning glory of the visual design. Anna's dresses are stunning and the cultural outfits are befitting the time and place. 

Robert Russell Bennett's orchestrations sound superb under the musical direction of Christopher Mundy. For me, this is one of Roger and Hammerstein's weaker scores but numbers like 'Shall We Dance' and 'Getting To Know You' are iconic and delivered with skill by the cast and orchestra. 

Stepping into the role of Anna on the press night in Nottingham was Maria Coyne, who alternates the role, and what a magnificent portrayal of the character. Coyne balances the staunch determination of the role whilst also showing great vulnerability. The effortless grace and poise she brought to the character was a treat to watch. I overheard one fellow audience member refer to Coyne's performance as “prime Julie Andrews".

Darren Lee commands a great presence as the King of Siam. His clear drive to command and lead is strong, he's not afraid to show the ruthless side of the character. There's more than a glint of humour too, something which Lee clearly enjoys playing. The scenes between Coyne and Lee are bursting with electric energy, creating something that becomes wonderfully heartfelt. Caleb Lagayan acts brilliantly as Prince Chulalongkorn, especially as the prospect of being the next King looms.

Darren Lee (King Of Siam). Photo by Pamela Raith Photography

Cezarah Boner as Lady Thiang shows a real emotional core and sings with real feeling that makes every word land. Dean John-Wilson as Lun Tha and Marienella Phillips as Tuptim create a magical couple and relationship that must be kept secret. The release towards the latter end of the second act especially from Phillips is deeply touching to watch.

The ensemble all perform well with the stand-out sequence 'The Small House of Uncle Thomas' (Ballet) being a show-stopping sequence of story and dance. Jerome Robbins' original choreography is reinvigorated by Christopher Gattelli, the movement is precise and clean. The kids are full of charm that certainly makes you feel warmth every time they are on stage.

Whether you're a devoted lover of the piece already or coming into it fresh this production of The King and I will serve for a fantastic evening out. It's a lavish production that is a great study of power and relationships and how those relationships shape lives. Glorious.


The King and I plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 21st October. Tickets are available from The UK and Ireland tour continues into January when the production transfers to the West End at the Dominion Theatre where it plays from 20th January until 2nd March 2024. Find details at

Marienella Phillips (Tuptim) and Dean John-Wilson (Lun Tha). Photo by Pamela Raith Photography

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