NEW Earswick Musical Society's The King And I is a visual delight and by far the most professional amateur production that I’ve seen.

The costumes, set and lighting are vibrant and exciting. Oriental embellishment versus late-19th century British elegance, there is glamour aplenty on stage. A fiery red border frames the stage while an LED-studded backdrop creates a star-lit sky.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical tells the story of Anna Leonowens’s arrival in Siam to teach English and the clash of cultures that ensues as she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the King. The few moments of humour, almost always on the King’s part, are especially enjoyable.

Music is at the show’s heart, and rightly so. The live orchestra is flawless from the opening note, while the acting takes only a moment longer. The opening scene lacks the grandeur and excitement that soon follows and it is after the first ten minutes that the show really thrills.

Director Ann McCreadie and musical director Don Pears juggle engaging solos with thrilling company scenes. The well-choreographed ceremonies that take place are a highlight.

The Small House Of Uncle Thomas, the story performed to Sir Edward Ramsey and his English party, could be a show in itself. The physicality of the young dancers during this scene is simply breathtaking.

Jo Pears, whose eloquent RP accent sits just on the right side of exaggerated, is charming as Anna, and my affection for her grew as the show progressed. As the King, Steve Tearle is fantastically fierce from the moment he steps on stage. His physical mannerisms are just fantastic, subtle but intelligent. Sam Lightwing mimics this physicality with great accuracy as the King’s son, Prince Chululongkorn Strong voices carry the show’s tunes, Getting To Know You being a particular delight.

If slightly long, this is an exhilarating show and well worth watching.

The King And I, New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight at 7.30pm; tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 07759 260852 or

Review by Rosanna O'Donnell