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LA Theater Review

The King And I

If practice makes perfect, then Jan Duncan should be able to handle stagings of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic in her sleep, having helmed three previous productions over the decades. Sure enough, this staging has it all, from music director–pit conductor Todd Helm's skilled handling of Rodgers' score to the ability of the entire cast—from the youngest chorus member to the show's two stars—to sing, dance, act, and help weave a credible story out of Hammerstein's heartfelt libretto.

Clynell Jackson III has made a career of essaying the commanding King of Siam—with charisma equal to that of Yul Brynner's. Jackson's comfort level and self-assurance are easily visible as he shows the monarch's outer bravado and inner doubts. Holding her own against the larger-than-life figure Jackson projects is Victoria Strong as the British schoolteacher who accepts the challenge of educating the King's dozens of children and his many wives in the ways of the civilized Western society. Very much like the King, Strong's Anna is an emotional, instinctive creature, which explains the taboo attraction between them. Strong reveals her character's deep-seated idealism and delicate sensibilities but also the iron will that allows her to stand up to the King whenever he crosses a line she can't accept—such as treating women and foreigners as second-class citizens.

Duncan's fluid staging, with its rich visuals, ties together all of the show's musical and choreographic elements. The sizable cast moves expertly in Karen Nowicki's choreography. Ambra King Wakefield's costumes look as though they might have taken hundreds of hours to create and construct, notably the elaborate garments and headdresses in "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet scene. The many rooms of the palace are grandly depicted by scenic designers Kathleen Doyle, Larry Knigge, Michael Turner, and Joe Varga. This is the kind of staging that comes along only rarely and should not be missed.

Presented by FCLO Music Theatre at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.
May 8–24. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Also Sun. 7 p.m. May 17 and Sat. 2 p.m. May 23.) (714) 879-1732 or

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