Back in September, it was revealed that three-time Tony nominee Marin Mazzie (best known for the musicals “Ragtime” and “Kiss Me, Kate”) was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. Just months later, Mazzie has joined Lincoln Center Theater’s acclaimed revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I.”
Mazzie has taken over for Kelli O’Hara as schoolteacher Anna Leonowens. She is joined by Daniel Dae Kim (the TV series “Hawaii Five-O”), who replaces Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam.
Not only is the lavish, Tony-winning production (directed by Bartlett Sher) still in great shape, it is more powerful today than it was when it opened on Broadway last year.
The role of Anna fits Mazzie like a glove. With her stunning beauty, playful instincts and knockout voice, Mazzie delivers a fully-developed, vibrant portrait of a staunch English widow and mother whose enlightenment ideals captivate the ruler of a remote Asian nation who is looking to embrace Western culture, even though it leads to his own demise.
O’Hara gave a fine performance as Anna, but it was hardly as captivating as her sexy Nellie in LCT’s “South Pacific” in 2008. (One suspects that O’Hara’s Tony win last year was really in recognition of her extensive work over the past decade.)
Mazzie is well-matched by Kim, who combines a handsome, commanding presence with the vulnerabilities of a king who, as Anna perceives, is not all that different than a young boy.
They are joined by members of the original cast including Ruthie Ann Miles (who won a Tony for her nuanced turn as Lady Thiang), Ashley Park (the slave Tuptim) and Conrad Ricamora (Tuptim’s secret lover Lun Tha).
The musical, with its keen observations on cultural misunderstanding, is especially relevant in the current political atmosphere. The King’s line “One day I want to build a fence around Siam” now gets an elongated, uncomfortable laugh.