Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe to Star on Broadway in 'The King and I'

Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe
Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe
 AP Images

NEW YORK – The long-standing rumor has been confirmed: Five-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O'Hara will star in Lincoln Center Theater's upcoming Broadway revival of the beloved 1951 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, The King and I, playing opposite Ken Watanabe in his American stage debut.

Tony winner Bartlett Sher, who directed O'Hara in The Bridges of Madison CountyThe Light in the Piazza and in LCT's hugely successful South Pacific revival, will stage the production, which begins previews on March 12 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Official opening is set for April 16.

Adapted from Margaret Landon's novel Anna and the King of Siam, the show is considered one of the masterworks of the celebrated musical-theater team Richard Rodgers, who wrote the score, and Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the book and lyrics. It tells the story of the quarrelsome relationship between a British schoolteacher hired in 1860s Bangkok to tutor the many wives and children of the country's imperious traditionalist monarch. The story was inspired by the memoirs of Anna Leonowens.

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The musical contains such evergreens as "Getting to Know You," "Hello Young Lovers," "Shall We Dance" and "Something Wonderful." It won five Tonys in its premiere production, including best musical, best actress (Gertrude Lawrence) and best featured actor (Yul Brynner), and has since been revived three times on Broadway, most recently in 1996, starring Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Brynner won an Oscar when he reprised his role as the Siamese King opposite Deborah Kerr in the classic 1956 screen version. 

One of America's most admired contemporary musical theater actresses, O'Hara has received Tony nominations for her performances in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, Nice Work If You Can Get It and, this year, The Bridges of Madison County.

An experienced stage actor in his native Japan, Watanabe scored an Oscar nomination in 2004 for The Last Samurai. His other U.S. screen credits include Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha, Letters From Iwo Jima, Inception, Unforgiven and the recent Godzilla remake.

Among Watanabe's forthcoming projects are Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees, opposite Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts, and Martin Scorsese's Silence, with Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver.

The revival of The King and I will recreate Jerome Robbins' original choreography from the Broadway premiere, with musical staging by Christopher Gattelli, a Tony winner for Newsies. The show reunites the design team of Michael Yeargan (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Scott Lehrer (sound), all of whom won Tonys for their work on South Pacific, as did Sher.

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