Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company’s rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical shines brightly. The excellent leads of Davro Hicks as The King of Siam and Louise Walker as widowed English teacher Anna are pivotal.
It’s a classic culture shock scenario as East meets West. Anna has to walk a fine line between tolerance and understanding of the other’s customs and questioning the helpfulness of some of the more archaic traditions.
Hicks and Walker comfortably fill the shoes of Brynner and Kerr from the famous film. A more hirsute Hicks has a booming speaking voice. He showcases a fine singing voice with the song A Puzzlement. He shares an easy chemistry with Walker who accurately mimics Kerr’s mannerisms. Walker also shows off her fine singing with classic Richard Rodgers numbers Whistle a Happy Tune and Getting to Know You.
Adam Walker makes a great directing debut. He gets good performances from a large ensemble cast, working miracles to synchronise the King’s children, entering, bowing and taking their places with the adults.
The costumes are fabulous. There are lots of Thai dresses and tunics and Anna’s marvellous hoop skirt which puzzles the children.
Hammerstein’s book is witty and also contains some wise and profound philosophy. The king is embarrassed to report he only has 67 children. He excuses himself by stating he started late! Youngsters Joe Bacon as Louis and Joe Kinch as Prince Chulalongkorn wisely notice that adults are as unsure of what they believe and what is right and wrong as children are.