by Annie Riddle
Old favourite is simply spectacular
Watching the King & I was like meeting an old friend. Enjoying the familiarity of its timeless tunes and the beguiling character of the children in the cast, the evening just flew by.
It is 52 years since the Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr film version scooped five Oscars and some aspects of the plot might not sit easily with modern audiences. But Salisbury Amateur Operatic Society’s finale to its centenary year skimmed lightly over any darker moments.
Martyn Davies brought just the right redeeming note of humour and humanity to the autocratic monarch, never overdoing it, while new principal Claudia Shakerley, in a series of frocks to die for, was a delightful and increasingly assured Anna.
Much fun was had with the King’s insistence that her head should never be higher than his, and their developing friendship was convincingly portrayed.
Indeed the tragic end which befell the beautiful slave Tuptim (Rebecca Davies) and her forbidden lover, young Burmese emissary Lun Tha (Jevan McAuley), came as something of a jolt amid the warmth and colour of this highly entertaining production. The talented young pair drew especially enthusiastic applause for their moving duet, I have dreamed.
Another vocal highlight came from Jenny Mears as Lady Thiang, who made light work of the demanding Something Wonderful.
Director Malcolm Clarke and his production team gave us a Far Eastern feel, notably in the scene in which a Siamese version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is presented as a ballet, narrated by the doomed Tuptim. The costumes were simply gorgeous.
Despite the length of the show, the audience remained gripped by the unfolding drama and the sheer spectacle of it all.
by Alec H. Ruddick, Regional Representative, S.W. Area, District 10
This very popular musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein has well known musical numbers, spectacular costumes and a good story line and this presentation did it more than justice.
The King, Martyn Davies and Anna, Claudia Shakerley gave very competent performances and both sang well. All the children were delightful and Louis Leonowens, Monty Lovering and Prince Chululongkorn, Isaac Randall were most impressive. Rebecca Davies and Jevan McAuley as Tuptim and Lun Tha sang beautifully. It was worth travelling quite some distance just to hear their lovely voices – very well done.
Jenny Mears as Lady Thiang did well and the chorus singing and interactions were very good. The Ballet was very well performed and the Orchestra under Musical Director John Dempster were at all times most harmonious.
Director Malcolm Clark used his expertise to present a production that came up to S.A.O.S. usual high standard.
Southern Daily Echo
This tale focuses on the unlikely friendship between widowed schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens (Claudia Shakerley) and the dictatorial King of Siam (Martyn Davies). The hired set and costumes were stunning and instantly transported us Eastwards to the palace. Shakerley was excellent, demurely maintaining her poise with her real thoughts showing in her expression. Davies also rose to the challenge and grew in confidence as the story progressed and the pair developed a touching relationship. Their offspring, Louis Leonowens (Monty Lovering) and Prince Chululongkorn (Isaac Randall) were superb and all the children deserve a mention for their clear characterisations and concentration.
The scene of “The small house of Uncle Thomas” was well done, clearly telling the story through dance and physical theatre and creating a parallel to the relationship between Tuptim (Rebecca Davis) and Lun Tha (Jevan McAuley) who were convincing in their roles and relationship and both sang beautifully. The show lacked pace at the beginning but picked up and provided us with an entertaining evening.
Blackmore Vale Magazine
by Rebecca Welsh
SWIRLING silks took centre stage as SAOS brought the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, the King and I, to the City Hall in Salisbury. Well cast, the title roles were taken by Martyn Davies and Claudia Shakerley, both of them performers with presence and panache. They were enthusiastically supported by the rest of the cast.
There was plenty to charm, amuse and be impressed by in this interpretation of the tale that became a novel and stage adaptation, all based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens, “The English Governess at the Siamese Court”. It was an inspired choice of musical for the company’s second show in their centenary year and the production brought tumultuous applause from a packed audience. The SAOS was directed by professional Malcolm Clarke.
Exotic backdrops provided the necessary atmosphere, including a memorable cityscape silhouetted against an amber-coloured sky. The “aaah” factor came in the form of the group of young children playing the roles of just some of the king’s 67 children. Young Danny Simmons as the Crown Prince and Harry Burke as Louis Leonowens gave moving performances, too.
Unfortunately the brass section of the orchestra was, at times, a little too inclined to drown out the performers on stage, but that is one of the almost inevitable drawbacks when there is no orchestra pit.