Broadway is known for its show stopping performances of acting, singing, dance and beautiful orchestras. Recently I got a chance to check out two of Disney’s best Broadway musical’s, The Lion King & Aladdin.
The Lion King was remarkable. Between the African dancing, the heart touching story of Simba and his journey along with the powerful voice of “Rafiki” (Tshidi Manye) – I was trapped in a glass case of all sorts of emotions!
But definitely the biggest highlight was seeing so many African-American actors playing lead roles in this beautiful production.
I sat down with Lion King‘s Jelani Remy who traveled with the show for years as “Simba” and is now gracing the stage as “Simba” on Broadway. As well as Chantel Riley who played “Nala” overseas in Germany and is now playing “Nala” in NYC.
What does the show offer?
Jelani: It’s a soulful show that gives connection and real heart.
How do you bring the same energy every day?
Chantel: I like to stay active as possible. Going to the gym and working out daily gives me the stamina to do this show. Right now I’m taking Kung Fu. I get to take what I learn in there and incorporate it into the show. That keeps it fresh and new.
How do you keep your chemistry?
Jelani: She [Chantel] inspires me. She’s a beautiful person, she has a beautiful story. We giggle all the time and that reads on the stage all the time. That keeps it fun, that keeps it fresh. It’s different every night because we listen to each other and we feel each other. There’s something about this Nala than I’ve ever seen. I’ve had many, many, many [Nala’s]. She’s a beautiful, actress, dancer, singer. It’s wonderful.
What’s one of your most favorite moments on stage?
Chantel: Once a year Disney has an Autism awareness performance where Autistic children get to come with their families. It’s so incredible to see their reactions. When you’re on that stage and you can see the light in the eyes of the people who are affected by autism–it gives us more energy and it’s so emotional. That’s definitely one of my favorite moments.
What is it like being apart of a show that’s so close to black culture?
Chantel: It’s a dream come true. I tell you that much. It’s great to be able to see people that look like me on stage. And to be able to work with people that look like me on stage. It’s a breath of fresh air when I come to work and I’m like yeah, I got my people and not just our show but we have a lot of shows on Broadway that has a lot of black cast.
Jelani: It’s an honor. For the children to know that they can. To be a catalyst, support, a teacher to the young ones who think that they can’t do this or don’t know what they can do, so for me it’s an honor to fill those shoes and be that role model.
What’s the toughest thing about doing this show?
Jelani: It’s being vulnerable. When you’re researching a character like Simba that’s been through so much and to keep that–it’s a dangerous place I think to open your heart up. In order to keep this show what it should be you have to be vulnerable.
Chantel: I think for me the most difficult thing was me growing and learning. Learning how to act, but it has been an incredible journey for me as I evolve.
Click over to read about my amazing Aladdin experience.