Bord Gais Energy Theatre’s upcoming show The King and I is both timely and a great night for the whole family says its star Broadway actor Jose Llana.
Speaking to Travel Ireland Magazine ahead of his appearance tonight (Friday 29) on The Late Late Show, Llana discussed the revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Previously adapted into a 5-time Oscar winning film in 1956, the actor gave his thoughts on why the play has captured the hearts of generations of audiences.
“It’s a timeless tale, one that resonates because it’s based on a true story about two people coming from different worlds – who fear each other at first – but become friends,” says Llana. He plays the King of Siam who lives in 1860s Bangkok. His character invites Anna Leonowens (Irish actress Annalene Beechey), a British schoolteacher to his country to teach his many wives and children English along with Western customs. “They come together through their love of the children, as well as some beautifully iconic music and dances.”
The show features famed songs like ‘Whistle a Happy Tune’, ‘Getting to Know You’ and ‘Shall We Dance’. According to Llana, even those who have never seen the show will be familiar with the music: “People will be surprised by how many songs they know from The King and I already. Then after they see the play, they will go home humming them.”
Llana has performed the role – which won Yul Brynner an Oscar – on Broadway and in 50 cities across America. However, this is his first tour outside the United States with a show and his first time in Ireland. Speaking to the actor on his first day in the country, Llana told Travel Ireland excitedly: “To celebrate I’m going to have my first Guinness in Ireland tonight.”
Bord Gais Energy Theatre have described the show as the ‘crown jewel of its 2019 programme’. Yet, it also holds special significance in Llana’s vast career, which has seen him land major parts on Broadway in plays like Rent, as well as another Rodgers and Hammerstein work Flower Drum Song.
“My Broadway debut and first professional acting job was playing the supporting part of Lun Tha in The King and I in 1996. So to be asked to step into this production and to now play the King has been a huge huge honour,” says Llana.
“In 1996, my first king was Lou Diamond Phillips. He very quickly became an older brother to me and a good friend. When I did this production as the King first at Lincoln Centre on Broadway, he came and supported me. It was beautiful.”
The show’s UK and Ireland Tour will stop off at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre from Tuesday, May 21 to Saturday, June 1. For those contemplating going to see it, Llana had some words to convince people to attend.
“It’s a great night out for the family. One of the best parts of my job is to look out into the audience and see most of the time three generations of family. It’s a show you can bring your kids and your grand kids to, one where you can learn some beautiful lessons.”
“The world right now is so divided. The King and I is a nice reminder that divides have been around for all of history. We’re telling a story that happened over 100 years ago. Yet people can still take the lessons that these characters learned and use them for today.”
Tickets for the show cost from €31. They can be purchased by following this link.