When Disney’s Lion King tour arrives at Bradford’s Alhambra next month (March 24-May 28) and Manchester’s Palace Theatre in the autumn (October 27-December 24), the Serengeti Plains location will play host to two new cast members, Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and Nokwanda Khuzwayo, seen above in rehearsals.
Stephenson had a terrific start as an actor, leaving the Royal Academy of Music’s musical theatre course early to take a role in Hamilton in the West End, followed by a season at the Globe Theatre in As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. He was also in Sky’s series Breeders, opposite Martin Freeman.
Not many people know Nokwanda and her twin sister Nokubonga are both veterans in Lion King, Nokubonga in Las Vegas, Hamburg, London and Taipei and Nokwanda in Brazil and Shanghai. Before taking to the stage they were both stars in over 760 daily episodes of a TV soap – Imbewu: The Seed – in their native South Africa.
Stephenson and Nokwanda will join Alan Mchale, from Ireland, who will return in a new role as Timon, with Cardiff-born newcomer Owain Rhys Davies as Ed, Matthew Forbes as Zazu, Jean-Luc Guizonne as Mufasa, Richard Hurst as Scar, Rebecca Omogbehin as Shenzi, Thandazile Soni as Rafiki, Carl Sanderson as Pumbaa and Simon Trinder as Banzai.
Having played in more than 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent (except Antarctica!) to over 110 million people, The Lion King’s worldwide gross takings exceed that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.
Julie Taymor’s celebrated adaptation of the Lion king movie opened on Broadway in 1997, and 25 productions in nine different languages have been created since. The previous British tour broke attendance records.