New Leads Take Over in King & I and ChicagoDate: 3 August 2000
Jason Scott Lee, the star of the West End production of The King and I, takes a leave of absence from the musical this week. From tonight, 3 August 2000, Paul Nagauchi will take over as the King of Siam at the London Palladium.
A spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that Lee is leaving for “personal reasons” - rumoured to be due to a serious illness in the family – and that, though no definite return date has been set, the star will “definitely be coming back”. In the meantime, Nagauchi, who played the role on Broadway, will fill Lee's shoes opposite Elaine Paige.
The King and I, directed by Christopher Renshaw, opened at the Palladium on 3 May 2000, following previews from 18 April, with an advance box office of over £7 million. It has been playing to full houses ever since and is currently booking to January 2001. The lavish revival originated in Australia in 1991, before opening in 1996 on Broadway, where it had a two-year run. Its many awards and accolades include four Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Theatre World Awards.
American-born film star Lee made his British stage debut as the King, the part made famous by Yul Brynner. In addition to West End diva Paige, who plays Anna Leonowens, the cast also includes Sean Ghazi (Lun Tha), Aura Deva (Tuptim), Ho Yi (Kralahome), Taewon Yi Kim (Lady Thiang), Robin Kermode (Sir Edward Ramsay) and Richard Avery (Captain Orton). First produced in 1951, The King and I is based on the novel 'Anna and the King of Siam' by Margaret Landon and has music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
In other musical casting news, the long-running hit Chicago will feature a new cast from 14 August 2000. Clarke Peters, star of Five Guys Named Moe, Unforgettable – The Nat King Cole Story and the National's acclaimed production of Guys and Dolls, takes over as Billy Flynn. He ll be joined by Petra Nielsen as Roxie, Annette McLaughlin as Velma and George Layton as Amos.
The Broadway transfer opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 18 November 1997, following previews from 27 October. It is currently booking to 31 March 2001. Amongst other accolades, the West End production, directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Ann Reinking, won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and the 1998 London Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.