And what more of this new version? Of course the performers. Kelli O’Hara is a joy to watch as Mrs. Anna. For those of us who were at LCT back in 2008 O’Hara was a super Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. In last December’s The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera she made – from my point of view, agreeing with Critic F. Paul Driscoll in Opera News – a “splendid” debut as Valencienne “singing, dancing and acting with authority and poise.” She brought the same professionalism and enthusiasm to Mrs. Anna in The King and I and immediately brought all the audience into her performance when she and Jack Lucas, as Louis, her young son, opened the show with “I Whistle a Happy Tune.”
Ken Watanabe, who plays the King, is also extremely winning in his performance. Of course I did not know of his work (this is his LCT and American stage debut, but there’s no question – from reviewing his Japanese theatre credits – that this is a talent we’re lucky to see brought to our stages).
Others are excellent in their performances. Naturally there are far too many to list here, and we can see why. Sher describes the production as “huge” and I suppose that’s the only word for it: “Fifty-one people are in it, plus twenty-nine in the orchestra, and only a place like Lincoln Center Theater can kind of pull this off. … It’s like having one foot in the past as deeply as we can, one foot in the present, and our eyes looking out as far as we can see.”