7 Questions for Brian Jose, Star of Interlakes Theatre’s Production of THE KING AND I

Brian Jose. Photo by Billy Bustamante

Brian Jose is starring as the King of Siam, opposite Adrianne Hick as Anna Leonowens, in Interlakes Theatre’s Production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, July 20-31.

Interlakes Theatre is located at 1 Lake Lane, Meredith, NH  03253. 

Brian Jose is a New York City based actor, director, and producer. You may have seen him being killed as “Thuy” or scheming as the “Engineer” in Miss Saigon. Or maybe folding laundry as “Bun Foo” in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Or perhaps as a nurse, doctor, cop, or waiter on shows like Law & OrderChappelle’s Show, and Gossip Girl. But he would like to be remembered as the co-founder of Broadway Barkada, an organization who’s aim is to support and celebrate our Filipino artists.

With Broadway Barkada, he has had the distinct pleasure of performing in some of the most distinguished venues… Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and The White House. Broadway Barkada members can be found on stages throughout the country, on TV and film, from coast to coast. 

Lia Chang and Brian Jose. Photo by Lia Chang
I caught up with Brian at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ after an Entertainment Community Fund Benefit performance of the Broadway production of Into the Woods to talk about his first time portraying the King of Siam, Broadway Barkada, how he managed during the pandemic and Asian Americans on Broadway.

Lia: What were you doing when the pandemic started?

Brian: In March of 2020, I was in New Orleans preparing for a second year as a performer for a riverboat cruise line.  We were in our final stretch of rehearsals before our first cruise of the season when we received word from management that we would have to cease operations for two weeks.  As I had given up my apartment in NYC the year prior, I had no choice but to return to my childhood home in Indianapolis, IN.  Two weeks turned to four, then to two months.  We were laid off by September.  
 
Lia: How did you manage during the pandemic?
Brian: There were certainly the dark days at the beginning… depression, sadness, helplessness.  But I think as a performer, I quickly learned to adapt and made the best of the situation.  I ended up knitting quite a bit… scarfs.  Conveniently, there was a yarn store going out of business and I managed to buy quite a bit of their stock.  I sold infinity, or rather, infiniB scarfs to friends and family.  That paid for my bicycle, which I would take out and ride for miles and miles each day, something I haven’t done since I was a kid!  There was a fair share of Zoom projects and meetups and readings and the like.  I even grew a handlebar mustache.  I had lots of time.
 
Adrianne Hick and Brian Jose. Photo from Nancy Barry/Interlakes Theatre
Lia: What excites you most about playing The King?
Brian: The opportunity to put my stamp on this character is what excites me the most!  I follow in the footsteps of some of our greatest Asian male actors who have had the privilege to play this character… from the iconic Yul Brynner to the most recent Adam Jacobs at the Drury Lane Theatre.  Each a beautiful performance and uniquely their own.  I just had dinner with my dear friend and original Princess Ying Yaowalak, Baayork Lee, to glean as much advice as I could before I begin this journey, and she told me to just be.  “When you are king, you are king.”  Find whatever it is that makes you command respect, attention, adoration.  Tap into that.  Also, I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m looking forward to the costumes.  Miss Saigon… rags.  I like a little sparkle.  
 
Lia: What has Broadway Barkada been up to?
Brian: Well, we just finished up a huge concert in DC at DAR Constitution Hall for Philippine Independence Day.  We were performing with two big Filipino pop stars, Martin Nievera and Lani Misalucha.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend , but one we won’t soon forget! 
 
L-R: Steven Cuevas, Jonelle Margallo, Bryan Munar, Brian Jose, Lani Misalucha, Billy Bustamante, Liz Casasola, Justine “Icy” Moral, Jordan Moral. Photo from Lani Misalucha
Lia: What’s next for Broadway Barkada?
Brian: Nothing at the moment, but possibly another road trip in the Fall.  I would love to get back to doing our two annual concerts that our audiences know and love, LUMIPAD, our dance oriented show in the Fall and SO THIS IS LOVE, our love song fest in February.  Our members and audiences alike have missed them.  Another goal in the hopefully not so distant future is to perform in the Philippines.  Powers that be, let’s make that happen!
 
Lia: What other projects are you involved in?
Brian: How about something that has just concluded?  I’ve been a part of the Covid Safety teams for the Met Opera, Carnegie Hall, and the Shubert housed shows on Broadway for the past 10 months.  I feel so honored to have been a part of the return of live theatre to NYC.  It was not always easy, but it certainly helped me maintain my love for the theatre and the community during these dark times.  Also, wear a mask… we aren’t out of this yet.  And thank you to Patti LuPone for recognizing us in your Tony speech.  That’s all. 
 
Lia: Tell me about your experience of going to see this production of INTO THE WOODS, with this particular cast?
Brian: You know, the messages and lessons I receive are different with each viewing of this show.  It’s a show that grows with you… not too many like that.  For example, this last time I saw the GIANT as a metaphor for Covid.  The arguing and blaming for why the GIANT is here. The Royal Family sneaking out of town until all is normal again.  The idea that if we want to get out of this mess, we all must work together.  I love that it’s richness continues to reveal itself to me with each visit.  
 
And as for this cast… well, I’m hard pressed to think of a better company of performers embodying these characters.  Especially excited to see such diversity in the company!  More of this please! And special accolades to Kennedy Kanagawa  as the show stealing Milky White… he was my favorite at City Center and continues to be in his Broadway debut!
Marc delaCruz (HAMILTON), Kennedy Kanagawa (INTO THE WOODS), Albert Guerzon (INTO THE WOODS), Rob Laqui (A STRANGE LOOP), Diane Phelan (INTO THE WOODS), Brian Jose and Delphi Borich (INTO THE WOODS) after the Entertainment Community Fund Performance of INTO THE WOODS at the St. James Theatre on June 30, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Feehan will direct and choreograph Interlakes Theatre’s production of The King and I, with Wade F. Russo as Music Director.

Based on “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon,” with music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, The King and I was originally choreographed by Jerome Robbins.  

British tutor Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam struggle with cultural differences after Anna arrives at the royal palace in Bangkok. Inspired by true events, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I is a tale of the human experience, exploring the historical intricacies of class, race, and politics in 1862. Featuring beloved songs like “Shall We Dance?” and “Getting to Know You,” this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic won 13 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical. 

The cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I also features Catrina Teruel as Lady Thiang, Hannah Kevitt as Tuptim, Yoosep Im as Lun Tha, Zane Talbot as Louis Leonowens, Albert Hsueh as Prince Chulalongkorn, Jeremy Rafal as The Kralahome, Andrew Widger as Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsay and Anthony Obinal as Phra Alak. The ensemble includes Samantha Ringor, Olivia Etchings,Irene Lo, Junko Yasuda, Alexa Wang, Jane Lui, Mikako Martin, Yuka Natsuka, Hanna Shizuko, McKenna Koledo, Alec Lobe, Ethan Wong, Koji Ono. Additional casting TBA.

Nancy Barry is the Producing Artistic Director of Interlakes Theatre. 

For more information about single tickets, flex passes and subscriptions, you can call the box office at 603-707-6035 or visit their website interlakestheatre.com, where you can also purchase tickets.

Lia Chang

LIA CHANG is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.

Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.

Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media and the 2022 Prospect Muse Award. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).

A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work. www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com

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