Escoffery leads Lion King’s ninth year

Published April 22, 2008

Shaun Escoffery, who was nominated for the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance In A Supporting Role In A Musical, joins the cast of Disney’s The Lion King tonight in a cast change that sees 13 new performers take to the Lyceum stage to perform in the long running musical. Joining Escoffery, who plays Mufasa, are George Asprey (Scar), Gloria Onitiri (Nala), Andile Gumbi (Simba) and Cameron Pow (Zazu).

Also joining the ensemble are Vincent Bugg, Sheila Kerr, Sakhumzi Mbele, Nqobile Nbanjwa, Yael Alano Pineda, Jermaine Rowe, Craig Williams and Wei Wei Zhang.

Escoffery received his Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his performance in the Donmar Warehouse production of Parade, but lost out to Tracie Bennett, who appears in Hairspray. It was a bittersweet win for Bennett, who paid tribute to Escoffery in her acceptance speech; the pair appeared together in Les Misérables in 2006. Escoffery’s other West End credits include The Who’s Tommy and Smokey Joe’s Café.

Onitiri, Gumbi and Pow are all Lion King veterans. Onitiri previously appeared in the production in 2002, but has more recently been part of the Avenue Q cast. Gumbi has played the role of Simba in Melbourne, Shanghai and Johannesburg, while Pow, who is making his West End debut, played Zazu for five years in the US touring production. Asprey, who is new to The Lion King, most recently played Billy Flynn in the UK tour of Chicago.

Disney’s The Lion King opened at the Lyceum in October 1999, since when nearly 7 million people have seen the show famous for the incredible puppets and costumes which won Julie Taymor a Laurence Olivier Award in 2000. Based on the popular Disney film, the show follows lion cub Simba who is tricked into believing he is responsible for his father’s death so runs away. But before long he has to face up to his future as leader of the pride.

The show features the Oscar-winning songs and score of Elton John and Hans Zimmer, along with additional music from Lebo M, Mark Macina and Taymor, who also directs.

The Lion King is currently booking until 28 September 2008.

MA