Movie Musicals Challenge –
The King and I

January 21, 2017 Just for Fun, Movies 8

Time for another selection from the Movie Musicals Challenge!

The King and I is another re-watch for me. More than that, though, it was a little trip down memory lane — when I was a kid, I was in a local theater production of this musical (as one of the king’s many children). It was an enriching experience and I’ll forever be able to recite certain scenes word-for-word… but I also experienced my first instance of paralyzing stage fright during one show, so that’s kind of a cringe-inducing memory in particular.

The music, of course, is grand and sweeping and moving. And the scenery and costumes are so gorgeous — I kept pausing the movie just to sort of look around and take in all the rich visuals. BUT it’s also kind of a mid-century American interpretation of a colonial-era Englishwoman’s(*) memories of a very foreign land, so… great as the audio and visual components may be, I wouldn’t exactly rely on them to be historically accurate, you know?

Despite my personal attachment to this musical, I can’t ignore its undercurrent of stereotypical orientalism. However, I also can’t pretend to know enough about this particular cultural issue or the story’s historical context to be able to lead an in-depth discussion on it. So I would simply remind any potential viewers that this is a nearly 70-year-old American theater version of a slightly older novel based on a 19th century memoir written by a white-passing mixed race expatriate.

One of my favorite scenes is the play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin that Tuptim presents towards the end of the film, which is based on a traditional type of Thai drama-dance called khon. This play-within-a-play is beautifully done and I can’t think of anything else quite like it in musical theater.

Have you watched this movie or seen the musical performed live? What did you think of it?

8 Responses to “Movie Musicals Challenge –
The King and I

  1. Margaret Walk

    This is one of my mom’s favorite musicals, so I’ve seen it quite a few times (although never live). The “play within a play” part has always been my favorite, too.

    • Louise

      I’m sure it’s lovely live, but I can’t imagine that the scenery/costuming/etc. on a stage could be quite as impressive as they managed in the film version.

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I’ve never seen this live although I’d love to! I think there’s a touring production of it coming to Louisiana later in the year, so maybe I’ll get a chance — we’ll see. In spite of the many problematic elements, I remain fond of it. Many excellent songs.

    • Louise

      The music is fantastic! I didn’t realize there was a touring production of it. I’d be interested to see how they handle the scenery, etc. — it’s a gorgeous film, I’m sure it would be a huge challenge to reach that level of gorgeousness on a stage, BUT I can imagine that the music and dance numbers could be just as if not more impressive.

  3. Jenni Elyse

    I adore The King and I. I used to watch it with my parents all the time. I haven’t seen it for years, though. I just need to rewatch all of my favorite “oldies.”

    • Louise

      I remember seeing it on TV a few times as a kid and I’ve been waiting for it to come on again, but it seems that a lot of the older musicals aren’t getting as much air time these days.

  4. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    I didn’t appreciate this one as much when I watched it for the challenge, but I saw the live stage show recently and enjoyed that much more. Particularly the Uncle Tom’s Cabin sequence, which makes me want to rewatch the film and see if I would still feel the same. I’m always disappointed though that the film didn’t include my favorite song from this show – “I Have Dreamed.”

    As usual, I’m so happy that you are continuing on with the challenge! 🙂

    • Louise

      Oh, it’s great that you liked the stage play more than the film! Maybe it’s because the one I played in was very… community-theater-ish… I’m having trouble imagining it being better than the film. And you’re right, I totally forgot about “I Have Dreamed” — gonna have to look that up on YouTube or the story just won’t feel complete now.

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