Watanabe's cancer was caught at an early stage. He had been scheduled to recreate his Tony-nominated performance as King for seven weeks, March 1-April 17. He will now give his first return performance on March 17. Hoon Lee, who is currently playing the King of Siam, will play his final performance March 16.
Jose Llana, who succeeded Watanabe in the role last fall, is scheduled to perform as the King April 19-May 1.
Daniel Dae Kim (TV's "Lost" and "Hawaii Five-0") will make his Broadway debut in the throne of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic for a further eight weeks, May 3-June 26. Kim starred as the King opposite Maria Friedman’s Anna Leonowens in The King and I at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Must See! Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe and Company in Positively Regal New Shots From The King and I
The cast is headed by 2015 Tony-winning Best Actress in a Musical Kelli O'Hara. A production spokesperson said "discussions are underway" about whether O'Hara will continue with all of the various Kings. Bartlett Sher, who earned a Tony Award for the 2008 Lincoln Center Theater Broadway revival of South Pacific, directed The King and I, which opened April 16, 2015, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and won the 2015 Tony Award as Best Revival of a Musical.
The revival has choreography by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific, Newsies) based on the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. The original Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations are also being used with dance and incidental music arranged by Trude Rittmann.
The King and I reunited Sher with his Tony-winning South Pacific creative team, including scenic designer Michael Yeargan, costume designer Catherine Zuber, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Scott Lehrer and musical director Ted Sperling. Casting is by Telsey + Company/Abbie Brady-Dalton, CSA.
O'Hara's history with Lincoln Center Theater includes the Sher-directed productions of The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. She most recently collaborated with Sher on The Bridges of Madison County. Her stage appearances also include Sweet Smell of Success, The Pajama Game and Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The King and I marked Watanabe's American stage debut. His film work includes "The Last Samurai," "Inception," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Batman Begins" and "Godzilla." His Japanese theatre credits include Dialogue with Horowitz, Hamlet, Shitayamannen-cho monogatari, The Lion in Winter and The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
The Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical, based on the life of Anna Leonowens as well as Margaret Landon's 1944 novel "Anna and the King of Siam," includes classics such as "Hello Young Lovers," "I Whistle A Happy Tune," "Shall We Dance?" and "Getting To Know You."
The original production opened March 29, 1951, at the St. James Theatre. It starred Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence and ran for 1,246 performances. The King and I has been revived on Broadway three times; the most recent production starred Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips.
According to LCT, "Set in 1860's Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, whom the imperious King brings to Siam to tutor his many wives and children."
View highlights below: