Sensational Dance at The King and I

A woman has written a book? “

The King

Helen George as Anna Leonowens and Darren Lee as the King of Siam (Photo: Johan Persson)

The King and I stands the test of time as one of Rodgers and Hammerstein lavish musicals with tunes you can sing on the way home. 

Helen George plays Anna Leonowens, the English governess who bravely goes to Siam in 1862 to teach English to the children of the King of Siam (Darren Lee).

The real Anna was not born in Wales as she claimed but in India. Her grandmother was probably Anglo Indian and she sought to disguise her mixed-race heritage. Her husband wasn’t a major but a sergeant.

Her description of King Mongkut of Siam as a tyrant was also inaccurate according to his relatives. Although much of her biography is obviously fiction, she was a feminist and in favour of votes for women. Many of the reforms in Siam were attributed by Anna to her own influence on the king and his eldest son and heir Prince Chulalongkorn (Caleb Lagayan). Prince Chulalongkorn himself said that his father having spent 27 years as a Buddhist monk before ascending to the throne was always a reforming monarch.

Helen George as Anna Leonowens. (Photo: Johan Persson)

The musical of The King and I  is based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon but should be seen as historical fiction rather than historically accurate. 

The opening scene has Anna and her son Louis (George Maguire) arriving in the busy port of Bangkok.  Dancers convey the bustle of traders and beggars at the port and Anna teaches her son her technique for dealing with fears of apprehension by whistling a happy tune.  The boat scenery is impressive as is the choreography as the colourful dockside inhabitants give way to beautiful, white faced dancers in white and silver traditional Siamese clothes with pointed headdresses, curved shoulder pads and bare feet.

There is much made of Anna’s being promised a house for herself and her son but then being offered an apartment inside the royal palace.  She gets her revenge by teaching English phrases with home and house in them as a reminder to the king of his forgotten promise.  The parade of the Royal children is one of my favourite scenes in any musical and here the children are delightful with their hovering mothers anxious that they should make a good impression.

Helen George as Anna Leonowens and the Royal children (Photo: Johan Persson)

We meet Tuptim (Marienella Phillips) a gift from the King of Burma to the King of Siam who, with her lover Lun Tha (Dean John-Wilson), have two of the best tunes in the show.  Tuptim’s first song “My Lord and Master” questions what has pleased the king.

The costumes by Catherine Zuber are spectacular as we remember that Bartlett Sher’s production originated at the Lincoln Center and there is good comedy as the Siamese wives try to make sense of the hooped undergarments for crinoline frocks.  These are called for because the King has been called a barbarian and uses Anna’s advice to create a good impression on the British Ambassador Sir Edward Ramsay (Sam Jenkins-Shaw).  We are reminded of the intervention of Western powers in Indo-China with the French establishing a protectorate in Cambodia.

Cezarah Bonner as Lady Thiang and female ensemble. (Photo: Johan Persson)

The highlight for me was the traditional ballet, the retelling of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the Siamese influenced “The Small House of Uncle Thomas”.  It is the most beautiful spectacle, the story chosen by Tuptim to make her anti-slavery message and the acrobatic dancers are thrilling.  So often in these musicals the ballet escapes me but here I want to see this again and again.  Yuki Ozeki is Little Eva and Qinwen Xue is the sinister Simon of Legree. 

Helen George is well known for Call the Midwife which I haven’t followed but she could be a great musical star with her beautiful singing voice and composure.  I enjoyed Caleb Lagayan’s performance as the heir apparent Prince Chulalongkorn with his formality softening towards his teacher.  Cezarah Bonner’s first wife Lady Thiang has a wonderful voice and stage presence. 

This production is only on at the Dominion until 2nd March 2024 and Theatrevibe, the site that doesn’t do stars, awards The King and I five sparkling stars. 

Yuki Ozeki as Little Eva and cast. (Photo: Johan Persson)

Musical Numbers

Act One


I Whistle a Happy Tune

My Lord and Master

Hello, Young Lovers

The March of the Siamese Children

The Royal Bangkok Academy

A Puzzlement

Getting to Know You

We Kiss in a Shadow

A Puzzlement (Reprise)

Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?

Something Wonderful


Act Two

Western People Funny

I Have/Dreamed

Hello, Young Lovers (Reprise)

The Small House of Uncle Thomas

Song of The King

Shall We Dance?

I Whistle a Happy Tune (Reprise)


Production Notes

The King and I

Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein

Music by Richard Rodgers

Based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli

Directed by Bartlett Sher



Cezarah Bonner

Darren Lee

Dean John-Wilson

Helen George

Kok-Hwa Lie

Sam Jenkins-Shaw

Marienella Phillips

Caleb Lagayan

Josh Bortoloso

Charlie Maguire


Rachel Wang-Hei Lau

Hiromi Toyooka

Jason Yang-Westland

Cher Nicolette Ho

Qinwen Xue

Yuki Ozeki


Royal Children

Cody Concha

Alana Bahane Koppen

Alexander Chin

Phoebe Zhao-Welsh

Ruby Mae Lewis



Director: Bartlett Sher

Original Choreographer: Jerome Robbins

Choreographer: Christopher Gattelli

Set Designer: Michael Yeargan

Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber

Musical Supervisor and Arranger: Sarah Travis

Lighting Designer:  Donald Holder

Sound Designer: Scott Lehrer

Orchestrations: Robert Russell Bennett

Musical Director: Stephen Ridley/Christopher Mundy


Running Time: Two hours 55 minutes with an interval

Booking until 2nd March 2024



Dominion Theatre

268-269 Tottenham Court Road

London W1T 7AQ

Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Dominion Theatre

on 31st January 2024

Marianella Phillips as Tuptim and Dean John Wilson as Lun Tha (Photo: Johan Persson)