The award-winning West End production of Disney’s THE LION KING will welcome Owen Chaponda (Back to the Future; The Colour Purple) and Merryl Ansah (Heathers; Crazy for You), who will step into the iconic roles of ‘Simba’ and ‘Nala’, this spring. This will mark their return to the show, both having previously performed in the ensemble in the West End production.
Owen Chaponda said,
“Taking over the role of Simba in the West End is unbelievably exciting. I loved every minute of being in the show as an ensemble member so returning as such an iconic character is a real dream come true.
Simba is a diverse character , his playfulness in contrast to his soft and vulnerable side is extremely fun to play with, he is young and full of energy but also has this huge emotional journey that he embarks on with his father Mufasa, his uncle Scar and his best friend Nala every night. He really needs Nala’s help to do that growing up so taking on the role with Merryl as she grows into Nala too will really add an extra level on and off stage which i can’t wait explore”
Merryl Ansah said, “Nala is amazing! She’s such a strong female character who leads with integrity and also allows herself to be vulnerable while really holding the Pridelands together. She has her own journey with the lionesses as well as with Simba and I’m excited for both those parts of the role.
I cannot wait to be back in this show, and, not only that, to be stepping into the role at the same time as Owen joins makes it an even more special journey for us both. We’re ready to take the Pridelands together!”
THE LION KING will also welcome Rhiane Drummond as Shenzi, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall as Banzai, along with new ensemble cast members: Gibsa Bah, Shaquille Brush, Stedroy Cabey, Nikki Cheung, Kat Collings, Marlee Jay, Tomas Larraguivel, Gennaro Maffettone, Lanya Matthews, Daniel Mejia, Sipho Mlombile, Ntethelelo Nhlapo, Dillan Hope Suttle and Francesca Thompson. They will begin performances on Tuesday 9 May.
The new cast will join a uniquely international company of over 50 actors, dancers and singers from 15 countries from around the world, led by, George Asprey as Scar, Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa, Gary Jordan as Zazu, Jamie McGregor as Timon, Thenjiwe Thendiva Nofemele as Rafiki, Mark Roper as Pumbaa and Mark Tatham as Ed.
Since the UK premiere in 1999, THE LION KING London has entertained more than 18 million theatre goers at its home at the Lyceum Theatre and is the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.
The story of THE LION KING roars into life using spectacular masks, puppets and costumes to tell the story of Simba’s epic adventures, as he struggles with the responsibilities of adulthood and becoming king.
Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation of THE LION KING opened on Broadway in 1997 and 25 global productions in nine different languages have been created since then (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese). THE LION KING is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher.
The stunning artistry of the production is the work of a team of designers which drew on diverse cultural influences to recreate the rich colours and vast expanses of the African savanna in this daring and inspiring reinvention of one of the most successful animated feature films of all time.
Julie Taymor, one of the world’s most innovative directors, brought a vast array of disciplines to THE LION KING, including extensive experience staging epic theatre and opera productions, exploring classic myths through ritualised puppetry, mask, and movement. The Lion King was the first musical Taymor directed in the commercial theatre and she made Broadway history by becoming the first woman to win the Tony Award® for Best Director of a Musical.
The Broadway show’s full creative team, which won five Tony Awards® for its work on THE LION KING, reunited in 1999 to recreate the show in London. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry created hundreds of masks and puppets.
Scenic design is by British designer Richard Hudson and lighting is by Donald Holder. Costume design is by Julie Taymor, and choreography by Garth Fagan. The book was adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated feature and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the screenplay.
The original score from the animated film was expanded for the stage and now features 15 musical numbers. As well as writing completely new songs, South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.
Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film. The resulting sound of THE LION KING is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award®-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.