London's The Lion King Welcomes New Leads May 9 | Playbill

International News London's The Lion King Welcomes New Leads May 9

The international hit musical continues in the West End at the Lyceum Theatre.

Merryl Ansah and Owen Chaponda Disney

The West End production of Disney’s The Lion King welcomes Owen Chaponda (Back to the Future, The Color Purple) and Merryl Ansah (Heathers, Crazy for You) to the hit musical at London's Lyceum Theatre May 9. 

Chaponda and Ansah step into the roles of Simba and Nala, respectively; both previously appeared in the ensemble of the London production.

Chaponda said in an earlier statement, "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."

Ansah added, “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.… 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 long-running musical also welcomes 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 join a company 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.

The Lion King began its stage life in October 1997 at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre, before transferring to the Minskoff, where it continues, in June 2006. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show’s director, costume designer, and mask co-designer, Julie Taymor, was the first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical; she continues to supervise new productions of the show around the world.

The international hit musical 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.

Watch: International Casts of The Lion King Perform Multilingual 'Circle of Life'

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs 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 book was adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.

The Lion King, which made its U.K. premiere in 1999, is now the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.


See Inside the 25th Anniversary Celebration of The Lion King on Broadway

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