Korean American actor leads Broadway musical ‘King and I’

November 20, 2015
Hoon Lee, center, sits with co-stars Ashley Park, right, and Ruthie Ann Miles.

Hoon Lee, center, sits with co-stars Ashley Park, right, and Ruthie Ann Miles.

A second-generation Korean American actor is gaining attention for his role as King of Siam in the Broadway musical “The King and I.”

Hoon Lee, 42, is a Theatre World Winner who took over the role originated by Ken Watanabe in July.

Lee was born in Minnesota and raised near Boston.

Although he does not speak or understand Korean, Lee faced a similar battle growing up under immigrant parents: they wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer.

Lee called his path to the Broadway stage a difficult journey, especially as a minority.

“I practiced more than others and overcame more than others,” Lee told Yonhap. “That hard work made me a better performer.”

“The King and I” — well-known for its musical numbers, which include “Shall We Dance?” and “Getting To Know You” — is his fourth Broadway musical.

His previous projects include “Pacific Overtures,” “Yellow Face,” “Flower Drum Song” and “Banshee.”

“The King and I,” which first opened in 1951, was written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II and is based on a 1944 novel, “Anna and the King of Siam.”

According to Playbill, the musical is set in 1860s Bangkok and 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.”

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