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Lead actors push ‘King and I’ to another level

There’s something wonderful about “The King and I.”

It’s the music that you tap your foot along to.

It’s also the superb craftsmanship of the costumes and set design.

But one key element is the ebb and flow of the Tony Award-winning musical. It’s truly magical and brilliant.

The national tour for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” brought plenty of laughs and tears on opening night Wednesday at Popejoy Hall.

The story of “The King and I” is a timeless tale about the effects of love.

And the message was cemented by the leads Jose Llana and Elena Shaddow, who play King of Siam and Anna Leonowens respectively.

Both are Broadway veterans and handled each piece of dialog with grace and ease. Llana ran through every piece of comedic dialog like it was second nature. Shaddow brought poise to her roll as Leonowens.

Shaddow is enjoying her iconic character.

“There have been so many before me to play Anna,” Shaddow says. “I think this role is challenging for me in that respect. It feels like the right fit. Anna is a very strong woman and sort of fearless in the face of her own fear. She’s extremely brave. I look up to her. Every day that I get to go on stage and play Anna is a gift.”

The musical is set in 1860s Bangkok and tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the forward-thinking King brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

The musical won four Tony Awards including best revival of a musical in 2015.

The travelling production is directed by Bartlett Sher.

The musical boasts a score that features such classics as “Getting To Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful.”

It wouldn’t be as magical of a musical without the supporting cast.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang with Brian Rivera as Kralahome, Q Lim as Tuptim, Kavin Panmeechao as Lun Tha, Charlie Oh as Prince Chulalongkorn, Rhyees Stump as Louis Leonowens and Baylen Thomas as Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsey.

Each one of these support roles helped make the entire night magical.

It would be wrong to not mention how beautiful — and seamless — the staging happened for each scene.

Pillars floating around until finding their place. The Asian theme really took the audience to another place.

At the end of nearly three hours — including one 20-minute intermission — the audience seemed to leave pretty satisfied.

The King of Siam would order you to go see the show, have a good time and “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

This is one classic Tony Award-winning musical not to miss. It’s a treat to have this in Albuquerque for five more shows.

‘The King and I’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21; 8 p.m. Friday, June 22; 2 and 8 p.m. June 23 and 1 p.m. June 24
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus
HOW MUCH: $45-$110, plus fees at unmtickets.com, UNM Bookstore ticket office, UNM ticket office at The Pit, by phone at 925-5858 or 877-664-8661

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