Dynamic Duo

Ashley Park & Conrad Ricamora Share King and I Memories, Backstage Secrets & Lots of Laughs

June 20th, 2016 by

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Ashley Park & Conrad Ricamora Share King and I Memories, ...

As The King's new bride, Tuptim, and her true love, Lun Tha, Ashley Park and Conrad Ricamora have brought audiences to their feet in LCT's Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I. They've kissed in the shadow, they've dreamed, and they've slayed on Instagram.

The king and I GIF- Ashley park GIF- Conrad Ricamora GIF

As the musical enters its final week on Broadway, BroadwayBox hears from Siam's dynamic duo about their journey with the show, their incredible offstage friendship, and their countless times snacking and laughing.


My first impression of my co-star:

Ashley:
You know what’s funny, I don’t think we actually had much time for first impressions because we were introduced while being ushered into the callback room to read/sing together for the K&I team. When Bart called for Conrad to join me in the audition room, I barely got to say “nice to meet you” to him before a train of thoughts took over, “oh what a sweet smile, he’s a great height and oh my gosh they want us to do the scene right nowww and sing ‘I Have Dreamed’ together and have chemistry oh my gosh stakes are very very low just kidding they are not…” So my first impression of Conrad was really him as Lun Tha.  And as it turns out, we clicked.  I remember feeling safe with him.  After we did the scenes, I remember thinking, “Oh wow. He gets it. Not just the character, but he like GETS IT.  And he’s totally getting this part even if I don’t.  Also he sounds like Obama.”

Conrad:
Bubbly and open.


Moment I knew we had a special connection:

Ashley:
I think I pretty much answered this above! But what you may not know is that it took a bit for us to really open up to the special friendship we have today. We always enjoyed rehearsing together, but the show was all we had in common for a while. It probably wasn’t until a couple months into our show that he went from being someone I never hung out with outside of work, to pretty much one of the only people I spend time with outside of work. Now Conzy is my shmoop! Also a "special" moment we'll never forget was when Conrad reacted in such a heartwarmingly priceless way when I told him I was pregnant as an April Fools prank… and got it on video with a hidden camera…honestly it’s my best work, to date.

Conrad:
I can’t pinpoint a single moment, but she has slowly evolved into my closest confidant and friend… honestly, wait… I know…. This is gonna sound weird but I hardly ever get mad or feel comfortable getting angry at people and continuing a friendship… but with Ashley, I knew we had a special connection when I got mad at her about something last year and it was totally fine… we were able to get over it so quickly and just keep hanging out… that’s maybe a good test for me… when I feel comfortable getting angry with someone and expressing it and having it be heard and not spiraling into something else… and then just moving on…. Wtf… this sounds like we are married…


I think our most memorable performance so far had to have been:

Ashley:
Our performance in April for the Autism Theatre Initiative, which makes theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as their families.  When LCT joined with TDF (Theatre Development Fund) to make one of our shows 100% autism-friendly, we sold out within an hour.  The house lights were left partly on and there was a constant cacophony of sound and movement. It was amazing and crazy and moving and scary and beautiful to be able to hear and see the guttural reactions of the audience to everything we did onstage.  And Conrad and I had to connect and focus in an entirely different way. It was one of the coolest theatrical experiences of my life.

Conrad:
Either the performance for people with Autism or just this week, after the Orlando shootings…our songs and scenes seem to resonate stronger sometimes when there are big world events.


My favorite moment we share onstage in The King and I:

Ashley:
Hmmm it really changes all the time... I’m curious what his answer is…
I’ve always loved singing the end of “I Have Dreamed” with Conrad, but especially recently (maybe because it’s the first thing we ever sang together and we only get to sing it a handful of times more). 

Conrad:
She gives me a secret present onstage during one of the transitions….Sometimes it’s gross (like one of her fake eyelashes) and sometimes it’s sweet…like a cookie.


The biggest way our Tuptim and Lun Tha have changed:

Ashley:
Something that our director Bart Sher asked of our cast once we opened, was to “deepen, but not widen” our story and characters throughout the run of our show.  I think we paint our LunTha and Tuptim with a lot more colors now, colors Conrad and I were able to discover together.  I think we’ve freed ourselves to open up to the all the layers of their journey: tenderness within the rebellion; giddiness of a first kiss; softness in declaration; hope in willingness to fight for forbidden love; peace that comes in the wake of life and death stakes.  And in finding these things, our LunTha and Tuptim have become more brave and hopeful and full, and I think that’s helped Ashley and Conrad find these things in their own lives too.

Conrad:
It’s cheesy, but they have fallen more in love.


Something I’ve actually seen my co-star do in the shadow:

Ashley:
Is this where I get to tell you something embarrassing about Conrad?  No? Okay fine.  Well I don’t know about shadows…but if there is a yummy treat around, you best believe Conrad will find his way there for a nibble.

Conrad:
Get tangled up in the vines that are hanging down onstage and struggle for a good 10 seconds to get free before our song.


Random Broadway ritual we have:

Ashley:
I mean, we have a lot at this point.  I feel like our whole show is a plethora of rituals now.  When I deliver “angel cards” (words of inspiration) before the show, Conrad always picks two cards: “One for him and one for Wilbur” (his adorable Frenchie pup).  Right before we make our first entrance, I put my head on his shoulder and we take one deep breath together.  I’m not sure when that started, but it’s become an important physical ritual for us to connect our bodies and hearts to our characters and each other before heading into the “kingdom.” And probably my favorite ritual is our “heaven snack” time: during the last scene of the show when most of the company is onstage watching the King die (spoiler alert), Conrad comes to my dressing room and we catch up and enjoy a “heaven snack”, named as such because both our characters are dead by that point (spoiler alert again tehehe).

Conrad:
She brings angel cards (you pick at random an inspirational card from a bag) around to the rooms before the show 


The secret to our performances gelling so well together:

Ashley:
Complete trust onstage.  Fueled by complete trust offstage. I’m always excited to run onto my scenes with Conrad because it really does feel like “play.”  I’ve never gotten bored because it’s easy to stay fresh in a role when there is mutual generosity and respect onstage, and when your scene partner is completely present with you. I’ve been asked too many times, “What’s it like kissing Conrad??” And my answer is always honestly, “I have no idea. That’s Tuptim kissing LunTha, not me or Conrad. It’s like I blackout as soon as we step into the story onstage.”

Conrad:
I think we have a strong way of blending our personal connection with the relationship that is written and they tend to heighten one another…and we both listen to each other onstage physically and vocally…and at the expense of sounding corny, emotionally as well.


Off-stage, my co-star and I bond over:

Ashley:
Literally everything.

Conrad:
Red wine at Vanguard after almost every show…relationship challenges, career goals, food, workout classes.


One day, I hope we can reunite on a revival of:

Ashley:
Gosh, we’ve actually talked about this a lot lately, just with the reality of our time together on this show coming to a close.  A revival of a Shakespeare piece (R&J? Twelfth Night?), or an absurd farce, or Miss Julie, or perhaps one day Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Actually, you know what would be fun (I don’t know if he’d agree)? I’d love to be the Sally Bowles to his Emcee in Cabaret.  Or Conrad could reprise his role in Cats, because years ago Conrad was a tumbler and wore a unitard in a production of Cats… AND NOW THE WORLD KNOWS AND I WILLLLL FIND THOSE PICTURES CONRAD.

Conrad:
I really want to do Miss Julie, and I think Ashley would be a crazy Julie.


I’m in awe of my co-star’s ability to:

Ashley:
Point his feet.  Seriously, he has the most amazing arches…whenever he points his foot, I ache with envy. I’m also in constant awe of his likability.  Truly, I do not know a single person who dislikes Conrad. When he is joyful, it’s infectious.  When he’s annoying, it’s endearing, which is annoying in itself.  He is genuinely respectful to everyone, while also being authentic to himself. 

Conrad:
Maintain such a high energy level and keep a positive attitude. I love her! 

Seriously, hurry to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre before June 26 to see Ashley and Conrad in 'The King and I'.