THE KING AND I, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Skimping nothing on talent and design, Dominic Missimi's flawless revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1951 delight succeeds on every front: as musical theater, spectacle, comedy, and heartbreaking story. Detailing an improbable romance between the fiercely dedicated king of Siam and Anna, a protofeminist English governess, the work remains a charmer, encrusted with such gems as "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Shall We Dance" and "Getting to Know You."
Mary Ernster is warmly engaging as the governess, bringing a quicksilver resilience and five different kinds of love to the roles Anna plays--as widow, mother, tutor, confidant, and lover. Her patter song, "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You," crackles with contagious indignation and spunk. And the versatile Kevin Gudahl gives the king wizard timing and effortless regality. It's impossible to imagine one performer without the other.
It's also impossible to overpraise Johanna McKenzie Miller's lyrical Tuptim, enchanting in "I Have Dreamed" with Chris Jones as her doomed lover, and Carol Kuykendall's elegant Lady Thiang. The Siamese wives and children are marvels of grace, as are Nancy Missimi's elaborate costumes, their sumptuous fabrics luxuriously lit by Diane Ferry Williams, and Thomas M. Ryan's golden set with its beaded columns, filigreed floor, and glowing pagodas. Best of all, Jennifer Kemp Lupp's choreography turns the "Uncle Thomas Ballet" into an astonishing cascade. Shall we dance indeed.