Tonight, Broadway vet Jose Llana joins Tony winners Kelli O’Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles (his Imelda from Here Lies Love) to perform the role of The King of Siam for a limited 11-week engagement through Sunday, September 27, in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, directed by Bartlett Sher, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street).
The King and I is the winner of 4 2015 Tony Awards — Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Ruthie Ann Miles), and Best Costume Design of a Musical (Catherine Zuber).
Llana assumes the role from Tony Award nominee Ken Watanabe, who played his final performance on Sunday, July 12 to fulfill a prior film commitment in Japan.
On the eve of his debut as The King, Llana answered a few questions via email.
Lia: You made your Broadway debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 Broadway revival of The King and I. What does it feel like to revisit the show in the role of The King of Siam?
Jose: It feels surreal. It’s been a very sentimental experience. The 1996 production was my Broadway debut and started my career. I love the show so much and am so fortunate to have it be such a huge part of my professional life.
Lia: Any tips from Ken Watanabe?
Jose: We knew our Kings would be quite different so there weren’t any “tips” to speak of. But something he did that I will always cherish was to show me a place backstage where he had set up a shrine where he prayed before every show for the safety and clarity of the whole cast and crew. I plan on continuing that tradition during my run.
Lia: In The King and I, you will be working with many of your Here Lies Love crew. Has it been like old home week?
Jose: It has been a wonderful reunion, especially with Ruthie. Conrad and I don’t have much stage time together but it’s like moving into a new house where some really good friends already live so they can show you around.
Lia: On July 6th, you got together with your original castmates from THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE including Derrick Baskin, Deborah S. Craig, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Dan Fogler, Lisa Howard, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jay Reiss, and Sarah Saltzberg, for a 10th Anniversary Concert to benefit The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, in memory of Andrea “Spook” Testani Gordon, your production stage manager of the original Broadway and off-Broadway production, who passed away on November 30, 2014 following a battle with cancer. What ensued?
Jose: An evening of silliness reconnecting with one of the funnest, most talented companies I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling friends. And we were able to raise over $200,000 for the Actor’s Fund Women’s Health Initiative, all in honor of our beloved Spook Testani and her beautiful family. It was a magical night… and HILARIOUS.
Lia: In March, you made your Lincoln Center American Songbook Debut, a culmination of your 19 years on the boards, to great critical acclaim. David Levy of Flavorpill.com writes, “Llana demonstrated that he is an exceptionally versatile performer, thrilling the audience with contemporary pop songs and Broadway standards alike… But the evening’s tour through his previous roles was a forceful reminder of his range, showcasing his romantic tenor in numbers from The King and I and On The Town and his facility with comedy in “My Unfortunate Erection” from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Can you elaborate on the upcoming recording?
Jose: I’m recording most of the concert and adding a few more songs, including “A Puzzlement” from The King & I. The plan is to record during my run at LCT and then plan some more concert dates in the late fall and winter to promote the album.
Photos: David Byrne, Alex Timbers, Jaygee Macapugay, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Adam Guettel, Sarah Saltzberg and More Celebrate Jose Llana’s Lincoln Center American Songbook Debut
Photos: In Rehearsal with Jose Llana; Set for Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Debut on March 12
Jose Llana starred as President Marcos in the musical Here Lies Love at the Public Theater, for which he received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination. His Broadway credits include Wonderland, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Drama Desk Award), Flower Drum Song, Rent, Streetcorner Symphony, and the 1996 production of The King and I, in which he made his Broadway debut in the role of Lun Tha. His other off-Broadway credits include Saturn Returns (Public Theater), On The Town (Shakespeare in the Park), and Falling For Eve (York Theatre). He appeared in the national tour of the musical Martin Guerre and in regional theater in The Ballad of Little Joe at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre (Jefferson Award nomination), Myths and Hymns and Candide (Ethel Barrymore Award nomination) at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater, and as Bill Sykes in Oliver! at the Papermill Playhouse. His film and television credits include Hitch and “Sex and the City.” He is an advocate for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Impact for Marriage Equality, and several other charities.
In addition to the cast album recordings for The King and I, Flower Drum Song, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Wonderland, and Here Lies Love, Llana has been a guest artist on half a dozen benefit recordings for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. In 2003, Llana flew to the Philippines to fulfill his lifelong dream of performing in his homeland; his debut solo album, Jose (VIVA Philippines label), primarily in Tagalog (Filipino), peaked at number two on the Manila industry charts. The album is available in the U.S. at www.CDbaby.com.
The King and I also features Ashley Park (as Tuptim), Conrad Ricamora (as Lun Tha), Edward Baker-Duly (as Sir Edward Ramsey), Jon Viktor Corpuz (as Prince Chulalongkorn), Murphy Guyer (as Captain Orton), Jake Lucas (as Louis), Paul Nakauchi (as Kralahome), and Marc Oka (as Phra Alack), and Aaron J. Albano, Adriana Braganza, Amaya Braganza, LaMae Caparas, Hsin-Ping Chang, Andrew Cheng, Lynn Masako Cheng, Olivia Chun, Ali Ewoldt, Ethan Halford Holder, MaryAnn Hu, James Ignacio, Misa Iwama, Christie Kim, Q Lim, Kelvin Moon Loh, Sumie Maeda, Paul HeeSang Miller, Betsy Morgan, Rommel Pierre O’Choa, Kristen Faith Oei, Autumn Ogawa, Yuki Ozeki, Stephanie Jae Park, Bobby Pestka, Sam Poon, William Poon, Brian Rivera, Bennyroyce Royon, Lainie Sakakura, Ann Sanders, Ian Saraceni, Atsuhisa Shinomiya, Michiko Takemasa, Kei Tsuruharatani, Christopher Vo, Rocco Wu, Xiaochuan Xie, and Timothy Yang.
The King and I is performed Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 2pm and 8pm, Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are available at the Lincoln Center Theater box office (150 West 65 Street), at telecharge.com, or by visiting KingandIBroadway.com. A limited number of tickets priced at $32 are available at every performance through LincTix, LCT’s program for 21 to 35 year olds. For information and to enroll, visit LincTix.org.
On Tuesday, September 29, immediately upon completion of filming his starring role on the fourth season of the Cinemax series “Banshee,” Hoon Lee will assume the role of The King,
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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Apple Video Podcast: New York Post Writer Michael Riedel Interviews David Byrne, Jaygee Macapugay, Jose Llana and Conrad Ricamora of Here Lies Love
Lucille Lortel Awards for Here Lies Love, Fun Home, The Open House, Good Person of Szechwan
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