The King and I
Music & Lyrics by: Rogers and Hammerstein
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1951, the dynamic duo of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II created a musical based upon the Margaret Landon book, Anna and the King of Siam, called The King and I. The musical was a hit with Yul Brynner in the starring role opposite Gertrude Lawrence. Yul Brynner would later earn an Oscar for his performance in the film based on the musical. When Richard Rogers was asked to run the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in 1964, Rogers decided that the first offering of the theater should be The King and I. Masterworks Broadway has recently re-released the original cast recording of this 1964 Lincoln Center Revival of the King and I, now available in eco-friendly packaging.
This version of the King and I features Darren McGavin as the King of Siam and Risë Stevens as Anna Leonowens, a widowed British teacher brought to Siam in 1862 to educate the King’s children. Initially put off by the King’s demeanor and ruling style, Anna contemplates leaving Siam, especially after witnessing the tragic consequences of one of the culture’s customs. Upon learning this, the King writes Anna a letter, explaining that despite how much Anna’s rebellious nature angers him, he has come to respect her and begs her to remain in Siam, teaching his children for years to come.
I had expected much more from the King and I Soundtrack, but found that as I listened to it, I was bored to death. Risë Stevens is an excellent singer, so much so that she actually overpowers her co-star, Darren McGavin, who I believe was a poor choice for the role of the King. The opening Overture offers up a great deal of promise, but by the time we have heard I Whistle a Happy Tune and My Lord and Master, we realize that a great deal of the charm to be found in The King and I has a lot to do with the visuals that accompany the music.
I will say that I found the longest track on the album, The Small House of Uncle Thomas, in which the wives of the King of Siam put on a theatrical performance of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to be hilarious and highly enjoyable despite it’s length. However, the rest of the soundtrack was lost on me and I found that I couldn’t wait to get to the final track on this album. While many Broadway enthusiasts may love to get their hands on the King and I Soundtrack, this was one soundtrack I could have done without.