Having seen neither the film nor the musical, I read the plot summary to help me understand what was going on. The King And I is the story of a Welsh teacher, Anna, who has been employed by the king of Siam to teach his many children (from his many wives). The film tells the story of Anna in her new job. It explores the differences in cultures of her and the king, especially regarding their opposing views on women’s rights. The soundtrack has the same order of the film, which allows the listener to follow the story as they listen.
The regal setting of the film is clear from the first song, the grand and triumphant Main Theme, with its crashing cymbals and powerful brass section. This royal grandeur can be heard throughout the record, for example on March Of The Siamese Children. Traditional Asian sounds and styles also help set the scene.
The opener is followed by the delightful I Whistle A Happy Tune. There are several other sweet, cheery songs on the record, mainly the songs with the children. Getting To Know You is a particular highlight. Anna’s love for the children contrasts with her anger towards the king, which is clear on Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?.
The main sub-plot of the film is the love story between the king’s newest wife, Tuptim, and Lun Tha, a love which Anna spots in the song Hello, Young Lovers. Tuptim sings beautifully, especially on My Lord and Master, where she tells of her love for Lun Tha. This affair comes to a head on the unusual The Small House Of Uncle Thomas, which is a play performed by Tuptim to the king and honourable guests. At thirteen minutes long, it tells a dramatic tale of a slave Elisa, who escapes King Simon of Legree – the ‘most wicked king in all America’, clearly reflecting Tuptim’s feelings of her own situation.
The emotional Something Wonderful (Finale) is a gorgeous, heartfelt close to the record.
After last week’s ‘dull’ album, this soundtrack is anything but. It is grand, yet delicate; delightful but heartbreaking. An entertainting journey and a beautiful listen.