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Theater: The King and I
Monday, 2004 July 19 - 11:19 pm
The North Carolina Theater scored a coup by grabbing Lou Diamond Phillips to reprise his Broadway starring role as the King of Siam, in their latest production of "The King and I". Sometimes a Tony-nominated star makes all the difference.

Past productions of "The King and I" at the North Carolina Theater have been somewhat disappointing affairs, with weak singers in the starring roles and lackluster direction. Perhaps the NCT producers remembered this before making their decision to bring in Lou Diamond Phillips this time around.

It's easy to see why Phillips was so successful in this role on Broadway. He brings a weighty presence (perhaps not quite as weighty as Yul Brynner, but close) while at the same time displaying a deft sense of coming timing and delivery. And as it turns out, he's got a pretty decent singing voice as well.

It's possible that Phillips' mere presence elevated the performance level of the other actors, because most of the starring cast was superb. Patty Goble, who showed off her tremendous vocal prowess in last year's production of "The Sound of Music" as the Mother Abbess, gives another strong singing performance here. Her acting performance was passable, sometimes lacking emotionally, but that's mostly a script problem.

The young lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha, played by Liz Paw and Telly Leung, gave perhaps the best vocal performances of the year. Where on earth has Telly Leung been hiding up until now? This guy should be on "American Idol".

Sandia Ang as Lady Thiang and Frederick Owens as the Kralahome gave the best acting performances in the show, in their limited roles. Ang, in particular, was impressive in that she was the only one who could maintain her accent consistently through the show.

Technically, the show was sound, with another solid orchestral performance under the direction of the incomparable McCrae Hardy, and some notably good work by new lighting designer John Bartenstein.

The child actors in the show gave good but unremarkable performances (with the exception of the scene-stealing four-year-old Brandon Veal, who could make a scene just by being there). Eric Santiago should be lauded for his singing performance as Prince Chululongkorn, but at times he looked every bit like a lanky 13-year-old and not at all like a royal prince. Tyler Mann was solid, if perhaps a bit uninspiring, as Anna's son Louis.

My primary complaint about the show: the increasingly-irritating affected accent of Gregory Dale Sanders. NCT, please stop casting this guy as an Asian; I'm starting to get offended.

But that aside, this is perhaps the best NCT performance of this show that I've seen.

Rating: 4 / 5
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Posted by Ken in: reviewstheater

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