The Lion King, the Disney megamusical known for its singular directorial and design vision, began rehearsals for its Toronto production Feb. 7, with a cast of 48, including 40 Canadians.
Performances begin March 30 at Ed and David Mirvish's Princess of Wales Theatre. Official opening is April 25. There are two U.S. performers and six from South Africa.
Stephen Allerick, 24, will be Simba. The lead role is the Torontonian's professional stage debut. While pursuing an acting career, he held jobs including ushering and stage door security at the Ford Centre in North York, former home to Ragtime and Show Boat.
The cast includes Eugene Clark as Mufasa, Stratford vet Richard McMillan as Scar, Saskia Garel (Toronto's Mimi in Rent) as Nala, South African Phinda Mtya as Rafiki, Second City Toronto actor Jonathan Wilson as Timon, Second City's Mark Terene (Cogsworth in the Canadian Beauty and the Beast) as Pumbaa, Jeffrey Kuhn (of Ragtime and Canada's The Who's Tommy) as Zazu, Topaz Hasfal (Show Boat) as Simba's mother, Sarabi, and, playing hyenas Ed, Banzai and Senzi, are Winnepeg actor Bill Perry, Jason Lee Jackson and Buffalo native Carmen R. Floyd, respectively.
The original creative team reunites to recreate the Tony Award winning staging: Director-designer Julie Taymor, choreographer Garth Fagan, scenic designer Richard Hudson, lighting designer Donald Holder, costumes by Taymor and puppets and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry. Taymor is restaging The Green Bird for Broadway in spring. The Lion King beat Ragtime for the Best Musical Tony Award in 1998, but on Feb. 18 a musical called Honk!, based on "The Ugly Duckling," beat The Lion King for Best Musical in London, in the Olivier Awards.
The score to The Lion King is drawn from the Disney animated film, with new songs by the movie's songwriters, Elton John and Tim Rice, and additional musical material and instrumentation by Taymor and South African artists.
Tickets are $20-$110 (Cdn.). The Toronto production has an open-ended run. Tickets are on sales through Dec. 24. The Princess of Wales Theatre is at 300 King Street West in Toronto. Call (416) 872-1212 for tickets.
-- By Kenneth Jones