The Melbourne King is Crowned

Jason Scott LeeAustralian theatre producer John Frost and Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini last night announced that the role of the King in the 2014 Melbourne season of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic Broadway musical The King and I will be played by international stage and screen star Jason Scott Lee.

Lee will play opposite Lisa McCune in the Tony Award-winning Australian production, which is being revived next year by John Frost and Opera Australia. Lee played the role to great acclaim previously in Frost’s production at the London Palladium in 2000-2001 opposite Elaine Paige.

Born in Los Angeles, Lee was raised in Hawaii and is of Chinese-Hawaiian descent. Although best known for his feature film roles, including the title role in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Map of the Human Heart, Rapa Nui, Soldier and Lilo and Stitch, he has had an extensive stage career.

Lee made his operatic debut in the non-singing role of Pasha Selim in Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio in Honolulu in 2009.

“I’m thrilled that Jason has a gap in his schedule which enables him to join the production for the Melbourne season,” said John Frost.

“Jason made a wonderful King in this production at the London Palladium in 2000 and received rave reviews. He brought a real authority to the role and sang it beautifully. I know Melbourne will be enchanted by Jason Scott Lee and The King and I.”

“We have assembled a wonderful cast for The King and I, and I look forward to working with Jason Scott Lee for the first time,” said Lyndon Terracini.

“I know this production will be as magnificent as the original, which is remembered as a milestone in Australian theatrical history, and it’s a great joy to be working with my friend John Frost again following our huge success with South Pacific.”

The King and I was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth musical together and is considered one of the jewels in their crown. It was based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, which took its inspiration from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s.

The beautiful score includes the songs I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance? and Hello, Young Lovers.

The King and I also stars Chinese-born Australian opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu as Lady Thiang, and Adrian Li Donni as Lun Tha, and is directed by Christopher Renshaw.

The King and I opens in Brisbane at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in April 2014, then moves to the Princess Theatre, Melbourne in June, followed by a Sydney season at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House in September.

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Image: Jason Lee Scott