Ken Watanabe Postpones His Return to Broadway Following Battle With Stomach Cancer

by Desiree Murphy 8:09 AM PST, February 10, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Ken Watanabe is postponing his return to the Broadway stage.

The 56-year-old Japanese actor -- who originated the lead role of the King of Siam in the revival of The King and I in April 2015 -- was diagnosed with early-stage stomach cancer, his rep confirmed to ET Wednesday.

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Watanabe has already undergone laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumors and is currently recovering at a hospital in Japan. Due to the circumstances, however, Watanabe must delay his return to the award-winning revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. He was originally scheduled to reprise his role on stage at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York City beginning in March.

Kelli O'Hara and Ken Watanabe performing a scene from The King and I onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. Photo: Getty Images

"I am preparing myself in earnest for the (Broadway) stage," he told Japan's Kyodo News. Hoon Lee is currently in the role opposite Kelli O'Hara and How to Get Away With Murder's Conrad Ricamora. "I would like to ask for your understanding that the start of my performance in New York will be a little delayed."

An additional statement was posted to the Oscar-nominated actor's Facebook page on Tuesday. "Ken has undergone laparoscopic surgery after having been diagnosed with stomach cancer in January," the message read. "His surgery was successful but his return to Broadway will be postponed."

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While the production's rep confirms the actor will be returning to The King and I "as originally planned," no set date has been determined.

Watanabe's stomach cancer was detected during a medical checkup. He was previously diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia back in 1989.