Wikipedia sums him up succinctly: “Jose Llana is a Filipino-American singer and actor best known for his roles on Broadway.” But like any cut-and-dried statement, this in no way does justice to Jose Llana the singer, actor, and out gay man. We had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Llana about his coming to Philadelphia to appear in the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia presentation of The King and I as the King of Siam, a role he is reprising from his Tony-award winning New York City production of 2015.
Ralph Malachowski: Mr. Llana, can you talk about your long association with The King and I for our readers? Also, please tell us something about this production.
Jose Llana: Call me Jose. I’ve had an interesting relationship with The King and I over my career. I was in school when I got the part of Lun Tha in the 1996 revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The King and I. That production starred Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy. Imagine what a great experience that was for me at such a young age. That more than anything hooked me into acting. Nearly twenty years passed when I appeared in the Lincoln Center revival in 2015. This time, I was the King. Now, I’m in this great new touring company of The King and I. We are about half way through our scheduled tour which began last October. Originally, we were to end sometime this year or next, but just recently we have had several cities sign on, so we will be guaranteed a run well into 2018.
RM: Looking at your CV, you don’t limit yourself to acting. You’ve recorded albums, appeared in cabaret settings, acted on television and film, and on the stage. Do you see yourself as an actor first, A New York actor, or as a singer who acts?
JL: That’s some question! I definitely consider myself to be a New York actor, since that’s where I live. I’ve been lucky to have appeared in several plays in New York. My fiancé of eleven years, Erik, lives in New York, so, yes. I definitely consider myself to be a New York actor. Singing brought me to musical theatre, and it’s been a wonderful experience for me.
This week, in addition to appearing in Philadelphia, I’ll be appearing in a New York City benefit, Tales of the City: A Concert, for The O’Neill Theater Center and The Trevor Project on March 27 at the Music Box Theatre. (For more information, see below). As a member of the LGBT community, I feel it’s necessary to not only give something to the community, but to be an out actor for our LGBT youth, especially. Visibility is important because if no young people see gay people as role models, they will believe there is no place in the world for someone like them. They focus only on the fact that they are different and don’t fit in, and when you’re Asian, for instance, that issue of identity and belonging has even more dimensions. I feel strengthened by being a gay actor, and I want everyone to see that as an out and proud gay man I can play a straight character without it being an issue.
RM: Neil Patrick Harris, for example, doesn’t seem to be suffering any negative responses. His career is thriving as an out gay man. You mention your fiancé. This implies that marriage is in the air. Will we be seeing the King of Siam proposed to onstage in Philadelphia? Or one night an American sea captain will be brought on stage to have the King propose to him?
JL: (Laughing) Absolutely not. There will be no onstage proposal. Erik and I will be married after the tour ends next year. Our personal life is not public.
I can tell you that playing to a Philadelphia audience will be a great experience. Both Erik and I have many social connections here, and we look forward to returning to Philadelphia for the excitement, the people, the nightlife, and to perform in The King and I.
For more information about the Tales of the City concert on March 27 at the Music Box Theater in New York City, visit http://www.playbill.com/article/tales-of-the-city-concert-will-play-broadways-music-box-theatre . All proceeds from the concert will benefit the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and The Trevor Project.
For more information on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I presented by Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music from March 22 through April 2, visit https://www.kimmelcenter.org/pdp-pages/201617/broadway-philadelphia/the-king-and-i/
Unleash the stories of top LGBTQ figures fighting for change and making lasting impressions increase in society.