THE King & I is a mountain of a musical and one that Bridgwater Amateur Operatic Society scaled spectacularly for their no-holds-barred Town Hall production.
As Anna Leonowens, BAOS’s Sue Rawle grabbed one of musical theatre’s heavyweight female leads – only The Sound of Music’s Maria, another Rogers & Hammerstein creation, could match her – by the petticoats, and made it look easy.
Each colossal number, whether ‘Hello Young Lovers’, ‘I Whistle A Happy Tune’ or ‘Shall We Dance’, Sue trilled in faultless clear-voiced fashion.
Malcolm Hogg captured the King of Siam’s torment at the revolution taking place in the palace, his soul and his political vulnerability, along with perfectly-pitched humour.
Then there were the children. From the King’s pocket-sized youngest ‘daughter’, who delivered a heart-wrenching ‘letter’ to Anna, to mini-me of his father Prince Chululongkorn (Brandon Filler), and the sage-like Louis Leonowens (Bradley Croucher and Ben Pomeroy, alternately), the youngsters seized the spotlight without batting an eyelid.
We felt the grief of star-crossed lovers Tuptim (Felicity Berry) and her lover, Lun Tha (the BAOS first-timer Tom Lousiopoulos); and understood how Lady Thiang (Rachael Berry) could love her man so.
The ‘Getting To Know You’ sequence was, for me, the highlight. The staging team outdid themselves with a replica map of Siam, flipped over to reveal the new world map – and view.
And the attention to detail, in the choreography and costuming (throughout), even to the pacing of the handshakes between the children, made your heart sing.
As the full company came together to the fore for a lung-busting finale of ‘Something Wonderful’, your correspondent will admit she was feeling misty-eyed.
By rights the society should swipe a Rose Bowl Award or two for the BAOS mantelpiece for their efforts.
***Check out Mercury photographer JEFF SEARLE'S fantastic gallery of pictures from the show by clicking HERE.