Actor Ken Watanabe says he is ready for the challenge of a lifetime as he prepares for his first Broadway performance in “The King and I.”

This will be the first musical for Watanabe, 54, and his first performance ever on a foreign theatere stage. The play will begin on April 16 next year and run until the end of June at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Watanabe told reporters in Tokyo that it will be one of the greatest challenges of his life, and said that he was entirely prepared to devote all of his body, mind and spirit for his Broadway musical debut, Sports Nippon reported Wednesday.

Although Watanabe has appeared in many Hollywood films, he said it has been a dream of his to perform on Broadway. Having started his acting career with a theater troupe in Tokyo in the late 1970s, Watanabe said he always had a strong desire to return to the stage. “I feel truly humbled by the opportunity to finally test all that I have learned while performing both on the screen and at on stage in my youth,” he said.

“The King and I” was last performed on Broadway 19 years ago. Watanabe will play the role of the king and will be appearing alongside 25-year-old Tony Award nominee Kelli O’Hara.
Watanabe was originally offered the role last year while still filming the American reboot of the Japanese cult classic, “Godzilla.” Critically acclaimed director Bartlett Sherr persuaded Watanabe to take the role. “We aren’t looking for the best singer, or the best dancer. No, we want the king,” he said, according to Sports Nippon.

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