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ARTS DIARY: MUSICAL The King and I ,Liverpool Empire.

Byline: PHILIP KEY

T IS too easy to consider a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical as merely a collection of catchy tunes and easy-going dialogue.

But as this Birkenhead Operatic Society production proves, their shows were often very much more.

Oscar Hammerstein's script, based on the true story of the British governess who worked at the Victorian court of Siam,has quite a gritty message about understanding cultures, unstated love affairs and even feminism. Richard Rodgers's score was no mere tune-fest but an often intricate merging of Western and Asian sounds while Hammerstein's lyrics always had something to say about life, be it Getting to Know You, the romantic We Kiss in a Shadow or the sheer energy of Shall We Dance?

Above all,it is a musical to be enjoyed and the Society has pulled out all the stops in this production directed by the ever reliable Elsie Kelly.

Wonderful costumes, a huge cast,amazing acrobats and even an eye-poppingChinese dragon dance all add to the fun and excitement of the production.

The set changes are smoothly done and the whole production seems to roll along on castors.

Davina Jones as the governess Anna has a beautiful voice as does Meryl Langford as Lady Thiang. And Peter Woods -head shaved a la Yul Brynner -is a forceful King.

But as well as singing they all act convincingly,enough to give this reviewer a misty eye at the sad moments and a laugh at the funny ones.

The youngsters in March of the Siamese Children perform beautifully and the Uncle Tom ballet sequence choreographed by Graeme Henderson is one of many highlights.

The orchestra -which includes many Royal Northern College students -is one of the best the Society has featured. Musical director Tricia Gaskell was able to take them confidently around an often tricky score,playing with gusto when required and tackling the quieter moments with heart-catching accuracy.

While the production is a delight one must remember that the cast had a great musical to work with and this original stage version offers much more than the film,more songs,more laughs and the thrill of a live show. It is sheer bliss.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2004
Words:362
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