There was a mini-craze in the earlier 1990s, following the release of "West Side Story" with Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa, of studio albums with opera singers and actors (e.g., Te Kanawa and Jeremy Irons doing "My Fair Lady"). My favorite of this little group has always been Julie Andrews and Ben Kingsley performing Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The King and I."
The role is perfectly suited for Andrews and it is virtually impossible not to prefer her singing to that of Gertrude Lawrence or Marni Nixon once you have heard "I Whistle a Happy Tune" or "Getting to Know You." Kingsley indeed has the thankless task of following Yul Brynner's role-of-a-lifetime performance as the King ("A Puzzlement"), but then the role requires an actor with style and flair, not a great singing voice. The supporting cast of Lea Salonga as Tuptim and Peabo Bryson as Lun Tha ("We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have Dreamed"), along with Marilyn Horner as Lady Thiang ("Something Wonderful") is absolutely first rate.
Roger Moore and Martin Sheen even make appearances as Sir Edward Ramsay and the Kralahome. This is because this album offers more of the musical's incidental music (e.g., "Anna Unpacks," "The Temple Scene") performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri, along with some of the attendant dialogue, all of which serves to enhance the experience of listening to this CD. The booklet contains a look at how the true story was turned into a Broadway musical in "I, and the King" by Theodore S. Chapin with photos of Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut (Rama IV), while musical theatre archivst Tommy Krasker provides the synopsis. It may well be heresy, but this is my favorite of my three CDs of "The King and I."