Jose Llana: The King and He


That’s what Jose Llana has learned over the years.

After an early career playing youthful and high-spirited characters in Broadway and off-Broadway musicals such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, where he played the easily excited Chip; Rent, where he played cross-dressing Angel; and On the Town, where he played love-struck Gabey, the 41 year-old Llana has now stepped into roles that demand power, authority, and, in The King & I, royal splendor.

Llana is starring as the king of Siam in the touring production of the Lincoln Center revival, which will play The Bushnell in Hartford Tuesday, May 30 to Sunday, June 4.

Llana stepped into the royal slippers during the Broadway run of the show last year, succeeding Ken Watanabe opposite Kelli O’Hara, and now has earned the role for himself on tour.

“My king is a little younger—and funnier,” says Llana.


He notes Yul Brynner, who originated the role in 1951 on Broadway, was only 31 when he starred in the show, and was 36 when the actor played the iconic role in the film. Brynner toured with the show until his death in 1985 at age 65.

But age and maturity are all relative, Llana says.

“The only thing I can do is to trust the material and my director,” says Llana, referring to Bartlett Sher, who staged another hit Rodgers & Hammerstein revival a few seasons back in South Pacific. (Sher will stage Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel next season.)

The tour also gives Llana special pleasure to play this particular role because in 1995, when he was 19 and as a freshman at the Manhattan School of Music he was cast as the young lover Lun in an earlier Broadway revival of the show that starred Lou Diamond Phillips.