Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Interview with THE KING AND I’s Jose Llana and All Access Pass to his American Songbook Concert and Party

Performances, Photography, Theater
Jose Llana. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana. Photo by Lia Chang

The King and I‘s Jose Llana dazzled in his return to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Concert Series on February 1st, four years after his sold-out appearance at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

Jose Llana and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante with the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante with the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante with the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante with the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Renee Albulario, Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus and Billy Bustamante. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose’s glorious tenor filled The Appel Room, where he was accompanied by his Here Lies Love cast members Jaygee Macapugay, Jeigh Madjus, Renee Albulario and  Billy Bustamante.

Kimberly Grigsby, Jose Llana, Pete Donovan on Bass, Jon Epcar on Drums. Photo by Lia Chang

Kimberly Grigsby, Jose Llana, Pete Donovan on Bass, Jon Epcar on Drums. Photo by Lia Chang

His 11-piece band featured Music Director Kimberly Grigsby on piano, Pete Donovan on bass, Jon Epcar on drums,  Aaron Heick on reeds, Sean Driscoll on guitar, Randy Andos on trombone, Matt Owens on trumpet, Entcho Todorov on violin, Hiroko Taguchi on violin, Chris Cardona on viola and Clarice Jensen on cello.

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Llana’s very personal set list encompassing his career and his recent marriage included Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing,” Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You” (King & I) and “Like A God” (Flower Drum Song), Mike Reid’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Adam Guettel’s “Build a Bridge” and “Life is But A Dream,” Shaina Taub’s “Tell Her (I Want You)” (Twelfth Night-Public Works), Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me A Little,” The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Madonna’s “Crazy For You,” David Byrne’s “Sugartime Baby,”  Bill Finn’s “Anytime,” Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and rousing rendition of Toto’s “Africa,” a nod to the destination of his planned honeymoon with husband Erik Rose.

Toto's Africa - Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madgus, Jaygee Macapugay, Jose Llana and John Clancy. Photo by Lia Chang

Toto’s Africa – Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madgus, Jaygee Macapugay, Jose Llana and John Clancy. Photo by Lia Chang

For the encore, Here Lies Love cast members from the New York and Seattle tour – Carol Angeli, Julian Leong, Diane Phelan, Belinda Allyn, Jordan DeLeon, Shea Renne and Geena Quintos- came dancing down the aisles for David Byrne’s “Eleven Days.”

David Byrne's Eleven Days. Photo by Lia Chang

David Byrne’s Eleven Days. Photo by Lia Chang

Front Row: Diane Phelan, Julian Leong, Carol Angeli, Geena Quintos, Shea Renne, Jordan DeLeon and Belinda Allyn. Back Row: Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay, Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Front Row: Diane Phelan, Julian Leong, Carol Angeli, Geena Quintos, Shea Renne, Jordan DeLeon and Belinda Allyn. Back Row: Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay, Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Front Row: Diane Phelan, Julian Leong, Carol Angeli, Geena Quintos, Shea Renne, Jordan DeLeon and Belinda Allyn. Back Row: Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay, Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Front Row: Diane Phelan, Julian Leong, Carol Angeli, Geena Quintos, Shea Renne, Jordan DeLeon and Belinda Allyn. Back Row: Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay, Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team also included Tony nominated orchestrator John Clancy (Mean Girls, Fun Home), Tony Award-winning orchestrator Michael Starobin. (Next To Normal, Assassins) and Matt Stine (Music Track Editor).

Matt Stine and Justin Levine. Photo by Lia Chang

Matt Stine and Justin Levine. Photo by Lia Chang

Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as The King.

Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as The King.

In 2015 Llana returned to his Broadway roots, taking over the role of the King of Siam in Bartlett Sher’s Tony Award–winning revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center Theater and its subsequent touring production.

In Spring 2019, Mr. Llana will lead the UK tour of The King and I as The King, with Annalene Beechey as Anna, fresh from her West End success at the London Palladium. The pair are set to open the UK Tour and are scheduled for the first three cities – Manchester, Dublin and Sunderland. Click here for the touring schedule and to book tickets.

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Billy Bustamante, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Jaygee Macapugay and Renee Albulario and the band. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose was headed to London to do pre-press for the tour but answered a few questions en route about the concert and the UK tour. 

The Appel Room. Photo by Chang

The Appel Room. Photo by Chang

Lia: How did you craft your set list and choose your orchestrators?
Jose: The first questions you ask: ‘What do I want to say? And what songs can I sing to say it in the best possible way?’  My first Songbook concert 4 years ago was a little easier to put together because the goal in that concert was to celebrate my 20 year career up to that point.  But this time around, I had more room to play which at first sounded fun but was actually terrifying. I knew the concert had to be about what had happened to me in the past 4 years since my last concert: The King & I at Lincoln Center, taking that show on Tour for 2 years and then getting married. Once I knew those were the things I wanted to talk about and celebrate, it became about finding the right songs to tell those stories.

Jose Llana, Regina Tolentino Newport and Erik Rose. Photo by Lia Chang

Jose Llana, Regina Tolentino Newport and Erik Rose. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: You’ve worked with Kimberly a few times and the working relationship seems very symbiotic. Can you elaborate?
Jose: Kimberly and I first met in college at The Manhattan School of Music. We were the musical theater loving geeks in a classical training school. I was lucky enough to get reconnected with her professionally when we worked on Here Lies Love. It goes without saying that Kimberly is just so incredibly smart and the best at what she does.  We’re also good enough friends where she knows exactly what to say to me to get me to be the best performer I can be.  There’s enormous trust in the collaboration.  She can smell bull$hit from a mile away and tells me so if I try any of that with her.

Kimberly is also the person who introduced me to John Clancy who, along with Michael Starobin, did an incredible job with my arrangements and orchestrations.  Michael and I had worked together before on Spelling Bee but I had never met Clancy. Because my set list varied so much from Broadway to Pop music, it felt right to lend two different voices to the arrangements.  And if those two voices are Clancy and Starobin, I would say you are the luckiest person in the world.

Orchestrator John Clancy, Jose Llana and his music director Kimberly Grigsby. Photo by Lia Chang

Orchestrator John Clancy, Jose Llana and his music director Kimberly Grigsby. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How did you choose to include the HLL dancers?
Jose: I knew HLL would have a strong presence in my concert. The show has been such a huge influence on my career. And I decided very early on that I wanted to end the concert with “Eleven Days” since it’s a great song and it tied very nicely into the wedding theme of the concert.  Once I realized the best way to bring the energy of the show was to have dancers in the aisles close it out, there was no turning back.

HERE LIES LOVE reunion with Justin Levine, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Matt Stine, Jaygee Macapugay, Shea Renne, Alex Timbers, Renee Albulario, Julian Leong, Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang

HERE LIES LOVE reunion with Justin Levine, Jeigh Madjus, Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Matt Stine, Jaygee Macapugay, Shea Renne, Alex Timbers, Renee Albulario, Julian Leong, Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: I heard from the cast members that you were a superb leader while touring and starring in The King & I.  How has the experience changed you as an artist?
Jose: That is very kind.  I hope I was. I know I tried to be and surely failed at times, but I really tried to be.  Lou Diamond Philips was one my first mentor in the industry when he was my KING back on Broadway in 1996.  He led that company with kindness, humor and charisma. It defined that experience.

Shea Renne, Belinda Allyn, Renee Albulario, Jose Llana, Geena Quintos, Carol Angeli and Jaygee Macapugay. Photo by Lia Chang

Shea Renne, Belinda Allyn, Renee Albulario, Jose Llana, Geena Quintos, Carol Angeli and Jaygee Macapugay. Photo by Lia Chang

When you are lucky enough to be put in a position of power where you have some influence, your only responsibility is to try to step up.  The show will be better for it. You will be better for it.  And, hopefully, everyone around you will be better for it.

The Company. Photo by Lia Chang

The Company. Photo by Lia Chang

Putting on a concert is the same thing. My job was to gather the best people I could to be in one place to make some great music.  Hopefully, the time we spent together was filled with fun, kindness and great collaboration.

Newlyweds Erik Rose and Jose Llana with his KING AND I leading lady Elena Shaddow. Photo by Lia Chang

Newlyweds Erik Rose and Jose Llana with his KING AND I leading lady Elena Shaddow. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: You recently got married to Erik and talked about your relationship in the show. Where are you headed on your honeymoon?

Jose: We are headed to Africa!  Kenya and Cape Town to be exact.  That was how I picked the second to last song in the concert.  And who doesn’t get excited about singing Toto at Lincoln Center?

Toto's Africa - Jose Llana and John Clancy. Photo by Lia Chang

Toto’s Africa – Jose Llana and John Clancy. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What excites you most about heading out as the KING in the upcoming cities?
Jose: I’ve never worked in Europe.  That was a big deciding factor in accepting the job to open and lead the UK Tour of the King & I.  And my family, including Erik, my sister and her kids, are all going to use the Tour as an excuse to visit me in London and Dublin.  How great is that?  I get to take this incredible production around Europe and my family gets a fun vacation out of it.

Lia: You are very at home on the concert stage. Any plans to perform this set in other cities?
Jose: No plans as of yet, but you never know. I now have arrangements from this concert and my Songbook concert from 4 years ago. Plenty of music to choose from and plenty of places to go to share some great stories!

Check out the reception and party photos at Ascent Lounge below.

The Appel Room. Photo by Lia Chang

The Appel Room. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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