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The Rodgers & Hammerstein oevure as a unified whole? 
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I'm not sure how to argue that point, because I've never really seen it any other way. But maybe you can give me your thoughts on their relationship?

As far as I see it, the reason Anna is so frustrated by the King's pretentions, and the reason why she bothers to argue with him, rather than just dismiss him, is because of her deep attraction to him.

She empathizes with his place of power and his struggle to be "the best king"--I think that in her mind, the greatest test of her beliefs about gender roles is to convert this intelligent man who thinks the absolute opposite, and has since birth.

Her empathy for him allows her great anger and also drives her to seek reconciliation, at the end of both acts--I maintain that if she did not sense a deeper connection with him, she would have lived up to her many threats to leave Bangkok.

But all of this could just be the makings of a deep friendship (the terms in which she couches it to Louis) except for the pivotal scene leading into "Shall We Dance" when the King presents her with a ring, and takes her in his arms. It is symbolic of his embracing Western culture, yes, but if you look at it in the face, he is embracing Anna. They are meeting on equal terms, with talk of romance in the air.

Her rage in the immediately following scene, when the King attempts to beat Tuptim, shows how deep their connection is--when she shouts "You are a barbarian" she does it intentionally, knowing that it is the one insult that would force him to stop, and she uses it purposefully, not in the heat of the moment. That the King does not brush her aside, but breaks down despite his bravado, shows how much he has changed in their relationship as well.

To quote the Director's Notes from when I was in King and I, "the bigger and actually serious issue underlying this universal musical is the issue of cross-cultural love, and thus of the ties that bind underneath the surface. Anna loves the man, she really loves him. And he, who can barely make a small step outside of the protocol of his court, loves her back. He is surprised as himself, within it, and has this touching awkwardness and courtliness. Nor does she giver herself away at first. Her dignity is inward, real, and undefeated."

In my opinion, I guess you can see The King and I without allowing romantic love to play a part--but that is denying the soul of the musical, that is present in every note of the score, in the subtext of every exchange between the title characters. If you watch the movie, or a very good production in this light, I think you'll see a whole new layer of meaning.

I know that was an essay, but the King and I is one of those musicals I could talk about forever. But I am very curious to see other views about the nature of their relationship. Thanks!


Now: The Demon with a Changeable Face--Ama and the White Crane
Soon: Featured Ensemble--HSM2, Babes in Hollywood: The Music of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney

Fri Jul 04, 2008 12:10 pm
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