‘THAT dress’ covers about four square metres of the stage and is far more hooptastic than the film version.

I can imagine an invitation to dance with it being a little intimidating but its gloriousness (and the fabulous reflection in the super-polished stagefloor) say a lot about this production from no less than the Lincoln Center Theater New York.

This is a lavish, definitive show that has deep respect for the iconic heritage of this Golden Era Musical.

It also has great integrity, with the majority of performers from an ethnic background appropriate to the depiction of the Royal Court of Siam.

Some audience members ‘don’t do overtures’ which was a pity as the inane chatter marred for the rest of us the immaculate, precise performance by the modest orchestra of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic score.

The design – sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes Catherine Zuber – have the wow factor from the get-go.

Anna’s huge dresses, the transfixing exoticism of the ballet of ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’ and a stylish, fairly minimal but rich colour palette of the court, of reds and purples.

There is a steam boat, a gorgeous iridescent cloth which burnishes in rainbow hues and some enormous carved pillars.

The performances are all spot-on, with Annalene Beechey as Anna Leonowens and Jose Llana the King of Siam fully embodying the spirit of the piece. Bartlett Sher’s direction is meticulous. Plus the kids are utterly adorable.

My only criticism is with the lighting. The reliance on follow-spots for key scenes against a dark background is always going to be risky on tour. I would have loved some bowls of fire somewhere to lighten the gloom.

The King and I is a mature work, about cultural difference and the power of love and by jingo I loved this world-class production.

Till Saturday, June 15

For tickets telephone 0844 871 3022 or go to www.atgtickets.com/sunderland

Sarah Scott