A true star takes the form of many talents: singing, acting, dancing and most importantly, the ability to transport an audience into a new world. At only 24-years-old, Ashley Park touches audiences every night with her angelic voice as she takes the stage as Tuptim in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I at Lincoln Center Theatre.
Her stage presence and performance background has earned her a rightful place next to renowned Broadway actress Kelli O’Hara, who plays Anna Leonowens, and Ken Watanabe, who plays the King of Siam.
Park hails from the University of Michigan, where she received her BFA in musical theater. After graduating in 2013, she moved to New York City and made her Broadway debut in Mamma Mia!, before going on tour originating the role of stepsister Gabrielle in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She auditioned for the role of Tuptim, a young slave girl gifted from the King of Burma to the King of Siam to be one of his many wives. Tuptim arrives escorted by Lun Tha, whom she is secretly in love with. Park was offered the role right on the spot.
“I actually was offered the role in the room by our director, Bartlett Sher, and the entire Lincoln Center team and representatives of the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization,” she said. “It was very surreal.”
Starring in The King and I has of course, been a dream come true for Park. She performs in eight shows per week and has learned a great deal more about performing.
“I have learned so very much about my craft, my industry, and myself,” she said. “Telling a timeless story on one of the world’s most epic stages, singing this sweeping score with a 29-piece orchestra, with a cast of 50 other remarkable storytellers is beyond a blessing.”
And Park truly does have the voice of an angel. To maintain healthy vocals, Park has developed a pre-show routine that she conducts religiously, involving a lot of steaming, tea lemon juice, Grether’s pastilles and gargling with warm saltwater and apple cider vinegar.
“Because my role has intense vocal demands, with the soprano ballads and narrating a 17-minute ballet and enduring a beating scene, I’ve come to prioritize sleep and vocal rest throughout the day as well in order to allow my instrument to be at full capacity for our audiences,” said Park.
The young performer had the difficult role of playing a slave girl, which Park prepared for very seriously.
“Bartlett Sher led us through a thorough and explorative rehearsal process. In fact, we began with a few days completely devoted to table work, where we read through the script in depth with the entire cast and had discussions and listened to lectures by professionals with background information,” she said on learning about Tuptim. “Personally, I read Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam, which is the novel that the musical is based on. I got insight into the world of Tuptim by reading that and other biographies of Anna Leonowens.”
Tuptim and Lun Tha’s relationship is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet’s as young love’s determination to overcome all obstacles results in the execution of Lun Tha, and a grieving Tuptim, who is quick to give her own life so they may be reunited in death.
Although Park said she doesn’t believe she has enough life experience to give advice about young love, like the romance between Tuptim and Lun Tha, she is inspired by their story.
“I certainly am inspired every night by Tuptim and Lun Tha’s steadfast and determined devotion to each other and their hearts,” she said. “They choose to love, and they are willing to die for it.”
To fall in love with Park and The King and I, call 212-257-0296 or visit www.lct.org for tickets and show times.
For a review of The King and I, see Getting To Know You, Etcetera, Etcetera.