A Princely Performance of 'The King and I'

We all have favorite memories we like to revisit in our minds from time to time, bringing back to life special moments we never want to forget. One of mine centers on an evening in Houston in 1983 when I took my young sons Rusty and Brad with me to see Yul Brynner reprise his iconic Broadway and movie role as King of Siam in a revival of the Rogers & Hammerstein musical, "The King and I." Like most people, I've seen the movie version starring Brenner as King Mongkut and Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens many times, but it cannot possibly capture the magic of Brenner dancing and singing and preening live on stage.

Recently, a touring company brought yet another revival of "The King and I" to Seattle where I caught the performance at the elegantly-restored Paramount Theatre. Wondering how this performance would compare with the magical memories I carried with me from Houston, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The actors performed brilliantly, the staging was superb and I left the Paramount singing "Getting to Know You" in my off-key voice and smiling so much my jaws hurt. Such is the enjoyment a night of great musical theater can deliver.

I was especially impressed by "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet sequence, a Siamese take on Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Every Rogers & Hammerstein musical includes a ballet centerpiece, and "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ranks with the best of them.

A Princely Performance of 'The King and I'
Marni Nixon
A Princely Performance of 'The King and I'

A one-time Seattle resident, singer Marni Nixon, provided the singing for Kerr's role, much like she did for Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and Natalie Wood in "West Side Story." Sadly, Nixon passed away in July of last year, leaving behind many friends in the Seattle area as well as many fans of fine music around the world.

Looking for a place to dine before the show, I headed to Seattle's famous Pike Place Market and enjoyed an early dinner at Maxmilien's, a Seattle stand-by for many years offering French fare worthy of a Parisian brasserie and a stunning view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

A taste of France followed by a taste of Siam--the perfect combination for a memorable day.