Nonie Buencamino as the King and Menchu Lauchengco Yulo as Anna.
(Courtesy of the Facebook page of TicketWorld Manila)
One rainy weekend, we went and saw The King And I, held at the Resorts World Complex, in its Newport Performing Arts Theatre. A well-known musical (which was also a movie starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat), I was more interested in seeing the production value.
It did not disappoint, and made the rainy trek worth it.
The musical was slated to start at 8PM, and while it did not start on time, it may have been (possibly) to give way to those still trying to make it to the show, given the rain and traffic. An assortment of people, from matronly seniors, to youngsters in what appeared to be their prom getup, were in the audience.
The show begins with some dancers, and the sets, a mixture of real props and the backdrop of a large video screen, fit together seamlessly to create the fantasy world needed for the musical. Kudos to this use of modern technology with traditional materials for set building, because having had to do all of them by hand would not have allowed for the (relative) ease in changing the stage background for the next scene. A live band was also playing the score, and they gave perfect accompaniment to the excellent singing that was performed that night.
Nonie Buencamino and Menchu Lauchengco Yulo were debuting that night as the title roles, and it was only a fortuitous turn that we decided to see it that very night. Both of them were quite assured in their playing of their parts, being seasoned actors, but this is the first time I have witnessed Nonie sing, which was a pleasant change (as I know him to be an actor foremost). Menchu was quite enchanting as Anna, the foil to the King's high regard for himself (although admitting he needs help). Her British accent never faltered (I've been to plays where the accent goes in and out), and everyone else - including the children of the King - contributed to make this show very much complimented in the pre-show interviews showing onscreen.
I must make special mention of the performer who played as the Burmese "gift" forced to marry the King (I regret not being able to get her name) for having an eeirly ethereal voice, one that reminded me of Lea Salonga in her Miss Saigon run. Just remembering her voice gives me goosebumps, and I thought she had the best singing of the night.
A quirky surprise was when the elephant appears, and we all had to squint our eyes to check if they brought a live animal on stage. As I mentioned, they gave time and hard work to make the sets quite outstanding, and for this, they really deserve applause.
Do catch this musical, which I believe has been extended to May of this year. It was refreshing to see a lot of young people in the audience, and even though you may already know the story (by heart or osmosis), there's no doubt that you'll be mouthing along when the King utters his "etc., etc., etc!"