Disney Theatrical Productions and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts announced that the long-awaited return engagement of Disney’s The Lion King will leap onto the Ziff Ballet Opera House stage on Wednesday, May 8 for a 3-week engagement through Sunday, May 26.
After 20 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues to be one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its premiere on November 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by more than 95 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years. Having been performed in eight different languages over the show’s life (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; Scheveningen, Holland; Singapore; and on tours across North America and Japan, for a total of nine productions running concurrently across the globe.
The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical. The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.
The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success. The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor has in recent years supervised new productions of the show around the world.
The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer. The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.”
The cast stars:
Spencer Plachy (Scar), Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa), Mukelisiwe Goba (Rafiki May 8 – May 12), Buyi Zama (Rafiki May 14 – May 26), Nick Cordileone (Timon), Greg Jackson (Zazu), Jared Dixon (Simba), Nia Holloway (Nala), Keith Bennett (Banzai), Martina Sykes (Shenzi), Tony Freeman (Pumbaa/Standby Timon, Zazu & Scar),
Robbie Swift (Ed/Understudy Pumbaa, Timon & Zazu), Brilyn Johnston (Young Nala at certain performances),
Celina Smith (Young Nala at certain performances), Richard A. Phillips Jr. (Young Simba at certain performances), Walter Russell iii (Young Simba at certain performances), and 34 other actors.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Gerald Ramsey who plays Mufasa for this exclusive Hotspots interview:
At what age did you begin performing, and how did it happen?
It’s been a lifelong thing since I was a kid. I am from the South Pacific from an island called “Aunuu,” so I have been performing all my life. However, performing professionally is a new thing that happened within the last six years.
What was your first professional role?
I was a Polynesian dancer at a place called the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.
How did you get cast in this Broadway Across America production of The Lion King?
They had an open audition in Honolulu a few years ago. A friend asked me to go and I declined, but when she offered to buy me lunch, I went. I truly expected nothing out of it and I got cast.
Is there any pressure stepping into the role of such an iconic character?
Definitely, because the film and the character are so iconic, and there is also pressure being an actor from the islands, as there are so few of us. I want to make my family proud.
Other than this role, what has been your favorite to play?
When I was a Polynesian dancer I was cast as the older brother of the female lead in Ha Breath of Life. The character was similar to who I am, but he was way more authoritative than I am, and that was fun to play.
What is your fantasy role?
If Disney ever does Moana I would love to play Moana’s father. But out of the current shows I would love to play George Washington in Hamilton.
What should our readers expect from this production of The Lion King?
It’s been around for a long time, but I think you should expect to experience something different from what you have seen before. This show has a message for everybody no matter who you are or where you are from.
To find out more info on Ramsey, go to: Instagram.com/Ramsey.gt
Tickets are available through the Arsht Center Box Office in person at 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132, by calling 305.949.6722, or online at Arshtcenter.org. Ticket prices at on sale start at $25
For more information worldwide, visit LionKing.com.