Guest Review: “The King and I” at the Pantages

BY MARY ZASTROW

It’s two days later, and I’ve let my thoughts settle about The King and I. Let me first preface this by saying it is a musical that has been a part of my entire life. That I danced around the room to it as a child, and that in the fourth grade choir concert I sang “Whistle a Happy Tune,” and no one in the room besides me and maybe a couple of teachers knew what I was singing, but even then I loved pretending to be Anna.

For the occasion of attending The King and I at the beautiful Pantages theatre in Hollywood I wore my favorite skirt with a petticoat underneath, because when you see The King and I and you are Mary Zastrow, you wear a petticoat. I brought along my beautifully embroidered handkerchief and prepared myself for a live orchestra performance of one of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s most beautiful scores. The overture started and I was done for (I love a good overture, especially the old ones).

Every single person gave a spectacular performance. Leading the show was Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana. Both gave superb performances. I was blown away by Llana as the King. His comedic timing and passion was really…wait for it… “Something Wonderful.” Kelly was simply lovely as Anna and played her with such grace, elegance and fire that she and Llana were truly an equal match for each other.

The show was supported by Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, who also moved me to tears during each of her solos. There is such an honesty to her as an actress and it comes off so clearly in this role. Another notable performance was by Manna Nichols performing the role of Tuptim. What an incredible soprano this young lady has and appears so very delicate and strong at the same time. Manna, along with Kavin Panmecchao who plays Lun Tha sang my favorite song in the show, “I Have Dreamed,” so very beautifully that it gave me the warm gushy feelings.

In conclusion I would like to say that seeing this production made me feel like I was in love. I’m not even saying that in jest. The feeling that came over me was everything you feel when you are in love…at least how it feels to me: like I was going to walk out of the theatre and there would be a live orchestra and I would have a dance partner that would lead me in all the steps ever so perfectly. And let me just say that “Shall We Dance” was everything I hoped for it to be, and when he grabbed her waist I just about died.

I think about two nights ago, and I truly do hope I can make enough room in my schedule to see it again, because I like feeling in love. I love seeing old musicals because my heart feels its best when I’m watching them. I’m glad there is still a place for them in this world, and as long as I’m here there will always be a place for them. So if you have the time and feel like being in love, treat yourself to this truly amazing production of The King and I. One of the best productions I have seen in my lifetime, and a true inspiration to my dreams.

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Mary Zastrow has been a performer in Ventura County theatre since 2009. Her most recent role was as Sister Robert Anne in Camarillo Skyway Playhouse’s production of Nunsense.

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