Colourful costumes combine with dazzling choreography to create a fun-filled evening.

For almost 70 years, little ones have donned their best dresses, grabbed the nearest unsuspecting adult by the hand and asked (or rather, demanded): shall we dance?

In our house, growing up, there was always music playing in one room or another; and when my sisters and I were very young, if it wasn’t Doe-Re-Mi blasting from the living room speakers, it was Getting to Know You. Both in subject matter and in the viewer’s relationship with it, The King and I is linked with the experiences of childhood; and it is why, I think, there is such an expectation of greatness surrounding any new production of this beloved musical.

Annalene Beechey as Anna Leonowens in the UK tour of The King and I

Source: Pamela Raith

Annalene Beechey shines as Anna Leonowens. 

And with this particular production, directed by Bartlett Sher, the expectation was higher than ever - not least because of its critical acclaim. Sher’s revival bagged four Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway in 2015, and since then has seen multiple incarnations in the UK’s West End, earning several Olivier nods respectively.

Such dazzling performances would not be possible without the set design, costumes and choreography to make them shine.

What’s more, it seems that game-changing revivals of the mid-century musical are a la mode at the moment - adding to the pressure to impress. The Bridge Theatre’s production of Guys & Dolls and another of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classics, Oklahoma!, have been stripped back in recent years, with critics and audiences alike praising their creative reinterpretations.

So, in taking our seats, I wondered who was more nervous – the cast or the audience?

There, of course, was no need to be worried with Annalene Beechey and Darren Lee at the helm of the production. Beechey’s Miss Anna was bold and compassionate in equal measure, a brilliant portrayal of the British schoolteacher who doesn’t falter when her beliefs are tested. Matching her in strength, Lee’s King of Siam has a childlike curiosity that undermines the authoritarian persona he maintains. Both are equally as stubborn, creating moments of joy as they test one another in a battle of wits.

Yuki Ozeki as Little Eva in the UK tour of The King and I

Source: Pamela Raith

The show includes colouful sets and striking costumes.

Such dazzling performances would not be possible without the set design, costumes and choreography to make them shine.

Micheal Yeargan’s sets had all the style of the 1957 film adaptation, so much so that it seemed to take inspiration from the Hollywood soundstages. The palace of Siam was embodied in towering columns and wide open spaces, giving performers ample room to twist and contort to daring routines by Yuki Ozeki. Drenched in deep cobalt and indigo light, their traditional Siamese robes, designed by Catherine Zuber, exuded luxury in their gold and bronze lustres.

The use of fabrics in this production is exquisite, from the heavy drapery of the palace walls to the extravagance of Anna’s gowns. As she and the King glide about the room to the famous Shall we Dance polka, the silk of Anna’s violet ball gown makes her look like she’s dancing on air.

What this production did brilliantly was deliver on all the elements that make this timeless musical so iconic, and in doing so not only met but exceeded expectation. In short, it was precisely my cup of tea.

We saw The King and I at Milton Keynes Theatre on Tuesday 7th November. The show is running until 2nd March 2024, with tickets and more information available at