THROWBACK THURSDAY: Disney's Award winning smash hit The Lion King holds a special place in the heart of not only it's ROARING fans but also for every single cast, crew, musician, and creative team member…. from it's songs, to it's story, and it's spiritual messages of life, destiny, courage, bravery, and hope. Many of it's cast members in all the productions around the world have all come from South Africa and holds lot of personal meanings to them. This show retells this timeless story (that we grew up seeing on screen) as a tribute to the traditions and routes of South African culture.

Many of it's cast members have come, gone, and returned to see THE LION KING as audience members. One of them was it's Tony nominated original cast member Tsidii Le Loka (who originated the role of the spiritual and wisecracking mandrill "Rafiki"). Check out this Behind the Scenes featurette of Le Loka who made a surprise backstage visit to the Broadway production at the Minskoff Theatre.

When Le Loka was performing part of the show with the original Broadway cast, they were at the New Amsterdam Theatre where she stayed for a year and a half. The show opened there in 1997 and then transferred to the Minskoff in 2006.

The idea of changing "Rafiki" from a male (as in the 1994 Animated film and voiced by the late Robert Guillaume) into a female was made by the show's Tony winning creator Julie Taymor. She believed that the story lacked the presence of a strong female character. In paying tribute to South African culture, "Rafiki" is based on a traditional healer they have called a Sangoma. Their job is to interpretate things from the past, see the future, and heal and guide people spiritually. When someone dies in a family, the Sangoma is their to remind you to never forget the loved ones.

"Rafiki" is the first major character that appears in the stage production as part of its iconic opening number CIRCLE OF LIFE. In case anyone may not know, THE LION KING does not begin like your traditional Broadway show with a full 5 minute overture from the Orchestra Pit. The musical begins begins cold. When the curtain opens, you first see and hear "Rafiki" delivering the first sound which is a powerful cry heard all across the savanna that announces that "The King Is Born!" Yup, that's the part where she calls out NAAAAAAAAANTS INGONYAMAAAAAAAAA, BAGITHI BABA (which translates in Zulu to "Here Comes A Lion, Father"). It's considered as Sans Overture.

In addition, Le Loka is the only original Principal actor to write a piece for the show. She wrote the haunting and emotional "Rafiki Mourns" in the first act. It's the moment where (SPOILER ALERT) all of Pride Rock grieves over the death of "King Mufassa".

Other than THE LION KING, Tsidii Le Loka has continued doing Theater, Film, TV, and Concert Work everywhere.

How amazing is Tsidii?!!!production as part of the it's iconic opening number CIRCLE OF LIFE. In case anyone may not know, THE LION KING does not begin like your traditional Broadway show with a full 5 minute overture from the Orchestra Pit. The musical begins cold. When the curtain opens, you first see and hear "Rafiki" delivering the first sound which is a powerful cry heard all across the savanna that announces that "The King Is Born!" Yup, that's the part where she calls out NAAAAAAAAANTS INGONYAMAAAAAAAAA, BAGITHI BABA (which translates in Zulu to "Here Comes A Lion, Father"). It's considered as Sans Overture.

In addition, Le Loka is the only original Principal actor to write a piece for the show. She wrote the haunting and emotional "Rafiki Mourns" in the first act. It's the moment where (SPOILER ALERT) all of Pride Rock grieves over the death of "King Mufassa".

Other than THE LION KING, Tsidii Le Loka has continued doing Theater, Film, TV, and Concert Work everywhere.

How amazing is Tsidii?!!!



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