Despite the success of the 1977 Broadway revival of The King and I, RCA waited until almost six months into the run to record a cast album. You can hardly blame them. There had been numerous recordings of the 26-year-old show already, two of them -- the original Broadway cast album and the original soundtrack -- featuring Yul Brynner, the drawing card of the revival. Though "The King" was now the dominating force in the show, it had actually been written for "I," Anna Leonowens, originally played by Gertrude Lawrence, and so there wasn't actually much musical material for Brynner. RCA emphasized what there was, however, adding bits and pieces of dialogue such as "So Big a World." Also attempting to distinguish this version from the many others, the label recorded brief numbers such as "Children Sing, Priests Chant" and "The Royal Bangkok Academy," which previous albums had ignored. The result was the longest recording of the score yet released. But it was still the performances that mattered. Constance Towers made a good Anna, possessing a much stronger voice than Lawrence had, if not quite the level of characterization that Deborah Kerr and Marni Nixon (who dubbed Kerr's singing voice) brought to the movie. Brynner, the third time around on record and now 62 years old, was huskier, but still authoritative. Young Gene Profanato, playing Prince Chulalongkorn, had more time on record than any of his predecessors in the role, and he made the most of it. June Angela, Martin Vidnovic, and Hye-Young Choi, carrying the really rangy songs ("We Kiss in a Shadow," "Something Wonderful," "I Have Dreamed"), were strong-voiced if formal. With Robert Russell Bennett's original orchestrations employed, this was a good-sounding version, even if it was a minor addition to the list of recordings of The King and I.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The King and I, musical|