Seeing “The King and I” at Lincoln Center Theatre three years ago (I remember because it was my birthday) was a magical theatrical experience, one that felt majestic and classic, as well as classy. From the opening scene with that enormous boat gliding into the orchestra, to the last moving moments, I was enraptured with its perfect direction and flawless performances. With that Broadway production’s transfer to London, complete with its top two stars, Kelli O’Hara finally gets to show the West End what incredible talent looks/sounds like and Ken Watanabe keeps getting to make audiences laugh. But the production feels like the final moments of “Pippin” when compared to the Broadway incarnation – like when everything is stripped away to show what the stage would be like without magic. Sure the lights and costumes and music are all there, but it feels like the magic is missing. The lackluster feel is partly due to the theatre it’s in (the Palladium), partly due to a West End cast that just isn’t as top notch, and partly due to the wackiness of the source material being exposed in this new light.
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