Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary, a composer herself, always considered “The King and I” to be the best collaboration between her father and Oscar Hammerstein II and indeed, when all of the elements are so rightfully in place as they are in the current Drury Lane Oakbrook version, it would be hard to argue the point. Originally a star vehicle for Gertrude Lawrence, Lawrence died early in the run and the focus shifted to the young unknown Yul Brynner, who created the role of the king on stage, magnificently transferring that performance to an Oscar-winning film performance, countless stage revivals and even a short-lived television series. His shadow is a long one, but the best post-Brynner productions are those that manage to bracket his trademark mannerisms and elocution and restore the lead to the governess (multi-Jeff Award winner Mary Ernster) and concentrate on the tension between the pair that eventually spills over into an unconsummated romance. Leaving aside the political incorrectness of a show that depends on the colonial arrogance of a largely fictional “memoir” of a Victorian governess who barely knew the king yet portrays herself as single-handedly civilizing a primitive Asian society that in reality was at least as complex and more ancient than her own, it is great to see such a talented cast that includes so many Asians playing Asians, including Broadway performer Joseph Foronda as the king himself. The elaborate sets, too, are Asian in look and feel, and choreographer Rachel Rockwell has done a remarkable job of transporting the elegant style of Jerome Robbins’ “Small House of Uncle Thomas” dance sequence to a smaller company and venue. (Dennis Polkow)
$22-$44.25.: Wed/1:30pm, Thu/1:30pm and 8pm, Fri/ 8:30pm, Sat/5pm and 8pm, Sun/2:30pm and 7pm. Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace; (630)530-0111. Through Mar 4.