Review: The King and I @ The Sunderland Empire

When I think about the King and I,  it is not a musical that I remember. Don’t get me wrong, I know the plot but I can’t for the life of me recollect the songs.

Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.

It is a joy to watch The King played by Jose Llana and Anna played by Annalene Beechey relationship blossom. The two leading characters come from different cultures and have contrasting opinions on a variety of matters and to see how they both learn from their differences is endearing.

For such a classic tale, the story and messages are still relevant to today’s world. Many cultures have different opinions of women on what they can and can’t do and how they should and should not be. Look at education and women, the role of a woman and the power that a man has over a woman.

The King and I is a thought-provoking piece if Anna was in the world today I think she would be a feminist. She is strong, powerful, independent and not afraid to speak her mind.  It defiantly resonates with today’s audience.

Of course, the vocals for The King and I are out of this world, I felt like I was in the West End in London. Absolutely breathtaking, the whole cast were on top form with their vocals.   Audiences can enjoy all of the classic songs such as Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance, featuring a company of over 50 world-class performers, and full-scale orchestra.

It is a visually stunning show, the words royal, regal, golden and splendid come to mind in both costume and set. The production features 300 hundred costumes using over 2500 metres of fabric. The scenery builders have 500 books of Gold Leaf on the cloth, each book contains 25 sheets at 140mm x 140 mm so that is almost 250 square metre. And the iconic Shall We Dance dress costs £15,000, weighs 40LB, has several hoops and a circumference of 14 feet.

Yet after watching the musical at the Sunderland Empire, the memories came flooding back. I remembered watching the film adaptation with my grandma, she would brush my hair and we would whistle a happy tune and all of the songs came back into my brain.

The King and I are at the Sunderland Empire till 15 June 2019. Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at

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