By Barry Reszel
Some Chicagoland patrons look for a nod from the Trib‘s Chris Jones, the approval the Sun-Times‘ Hedy Weiss or perhaps a positive comment on a website like this one to decide whether to attend a local musical theatre production.
None of these outlets is any more credible than longtime Northbrook resident Miriam Erlebacher.
She’s Marriott Theatre’s resident of Section 4, Row E, Seat 25 at every run’s first week Wednesday matinee for more years than she can remember. Her’s are some serious reviewing chops.
So when Miriam says local musical theatre fans ought not miss the Marriott’s resplendent production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, The King and I, it really is a recommendation that ought be met with a box office run; first Wednesday matinee crowds don’t give standing ovations nonchalantly.
What Miriam and her fellow patrons enjoyed is, first, the seemingly effortless elegance of Chicagoland musical theatre queen Heidi Kettenring. Her gorgeous voice provides a nuanced touch to the show’s endearingly familiar songbook (“I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You,” “Hello, Young Lovers” and “Shall We Dance,” among others). Above all, her confident characterization as before-her-time (1860s) feminist, Anna Leonowens, parents Director Nick Bowling‘s multi-generational cast of wonderful talents who will undoubtedly and deservedly perform to enthusiastic crowds through the holidays.
Kettenring is well-complemented by handsome, deep-voiced Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte as the King of Siam, who brings the widowed Anna and her young son Louis (extraordinarily well played by Michael Semanic) to Siam for Anna to teach his many wives and children. Her teaching extends to the king himself, as he looks to westernize his culture. A full plot synopsis may be read here.
Further among Miriam’s highlights are stunning performances from illicit lovers Lun Tha (played by Devin Ilaw) and Tuptim (Megan Masako Haley), the latter brought as a gift to the king from the ruler of Burma. Haley’s “My Lord and Master” and the pair’s duets, “WeKiss in a Shadow” and “I Have Dreamed” are simply gorgeous. These are two young stars with long, successful careers ahead of them.
Other than a personal feeling that act two’s musical within a musical, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet,” is a tad long for contemporary audiences, this production is nearly perfect. Nancy Missimi‘s costumes are typically dazzling; Ryan T. Nelson‘s music, top-notch, Tommy Rapley‘s choreography, visually stunning; and Thomas M. Ryan‘s scenery, elegantly simple. And all are intertwined with Bowling’s supporting cast of consummate triple-threats and adorable children.
It’s difficult to imagine a more completely professional, accessible production of The King and I. Miriam says, “Don’t miss it.”
And Miriam’s right.
“The King and I”‘ runs through Jan. 4, 2015, at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr, Lincolnshire, with performances Wednesdays at 1 pm and 8 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4:30 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 pm and 5 pm (No performances July 2-6). Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, with discounts available for seniors and students. Dinner-theatre packages are also available. Parking is free. Information and Tickets are available at the Marriott Theatre Box Office, 847-634-0200 or www.MarriottTheatre.com.