(Charles McGrath’s article appeared in The New York Times on 3/12; via Pam Green.)
In the wrong hands, “The King and I,” with all those adorable children scampering about, could feel a little Disneyish. And then there’s the Yul Brynner problem. The show was originally written for Gertrude Lawrence, fanning the embers of her career, but it was Brynner, with his gleaming head and firm torso, who put his stamp on it when the show opened in 1951 and made a lifetime job of playing the King of Siam. He was still doing the role just months before his death in 1985, at the age of 65, and for all we know he’s doing it still.
How do you get audiences to let go of that hard-to-forget image and move on? Or for that matter, how do you get them to forget the 1996 revival, which starred Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips, who went on to make playing the king not a career, but a part-time job?