Ex-All Black Nicholas Afoa scores with Simba lead in Lyceum Theatre’s The Lion King

Former Lion King, Andile Gumbi, in Disney's The Lion King. Image  Johan Persson
Former Lion King, Andile Gumbi, in Disney’s The Lion King. Image Johan Persson

A new cast has joined the London production of The Lion King and hoping to score a hit in the leading role of Simba is a player more used to growling The Haka than roaring like a big cat.

Former New Zealand All Blacks rugby player Nicholas Afoa has had a journey of his own to take pride of place on stage at the Lyceum Theatre in London’s West End.

The New Zealand-born, Auckland-raised, performer had a promising rugby career until he was sidelined by injury. Nearly a decade later, after recovering and dedicating himself to a theatre career, the 30-year-old beat 400 other hopefuls to the role of Simba in the Australian production.

He debuted in the show in 2013 and played Simba in the Sydney production of the landmark musical until this year when he was offered the chance of moving to London.

nicholas afoa the lion king

The opportunity to play the role in the West End production brought Afoa to London for the first time, embarking on his second professional theatre engagement. He took up his post last week.

Other new members of the cast include: Etian Almeida, Jonathan Andre, Janique Charles, Zinhle Dube, Sandile Gontsana, Kwesi Jeffers, Stephanie Lo, Sadia McEwen, Khaya Maseko, Daniel Monteiro, Nosipho Nkonqa, Dominique Planter, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Kayode Salina and Ricardo Walker.

Disney’s award-winning musical, The Lion King, is now in its 17th triumphant year at the Lyceum Theatre. Since the UK première in 1999, the show has entertained over 13 million theatregoers and remains the West End’s best-selling stage production.

It is currently the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

Julie Taymor’s internationally-celebrated stage adaptation of Disney’s beloved animated film premièred on Broadway in 1997 and has now been seen by more than 80 million people across six continents. Eight productions are running concurrently around the globe.

Tickets are currently on sale until November 27 for individuals and June 4, 2017 for groups.

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