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COUNTDOWN TO THE LION KING (article first published : 2007-05-27)

The cast for South Africa's most ambitious musical show of all time - The Lion King - has been announced and includes some of this country's finest performers including Sello Maake Ka-Ncube and Buyisile Zama.

The Lion King is previewing on countdown to open on June 6 in Johannesburg at the sumptuous Teatro at Montecasino Tsogo Sun with an entirely local cast of 53 and a 20-member orchestra backed by a technical crew of 70. The resident conductor of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, Lykele Temmingh, will conduct the orchestra. A further KZN link is that the KZNPO’s CEO and Artistic Director, Bongani Tembe is associate producer with Pieter Toerien.

South Africa will be the 10th country to host the production in the year that the show celebrates its 10th anniversary on Broadway. It is also the first Lion King production in the world which will be entirely cast from the country it is playing in.

Sello Maake Ka-Ncube will play Mufasa, a role he played on London's West End; Buyisile Zama will reprise her role as Rafiki; Mark Rayment is the evil Scar; Pierre van Heerden and Peter Mashiga are Pumbaa and Timon while young actor Andile Gumbi has been cast as Simba. Other leading roles are played by Lyall Ramsden as Zazu, Tsholo Monedi as Nala, Candida Mosoma as Shenzi, Simon Gwala as Bazai, Michael Bagg as Ed and Zoe Mthiyane as Sarabi.

"This is a day we've looked forward to for a very long time," says Thomas Schumacher, President Disney Theatrical Productions. "We couldn't be more excited to bring our New York team and local producing partners together with this talented group of South African performers. We are also looking to meeting our South African audiences."

Says Lebo M, one of the producers of The Lion King: "I have always done castings for South African actors for The Lion King throughout the world since its inception 10 years ago. However casting for the South African production gives me the greatest joy. The talent is outstanding and I believe this show will be the best of them all. In my new role as producer, bringing The Lion King home is a dream come true."

Co-producer Pieter Toerien says about the casting: "Lion King SA had the most the extensive casting process ever in our country. Three separate sets of auditions over nearly a year were held in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. In each case a creative team of four were sent to South Africa by the Disney organisation. Even after this process which cost us nearly a million rands, the three final choices for each leading role had to be sent on video to Tom Schumacher and director Julie Taymor who made the final decisions."

Dancers cast in the show include Michael Jakavula, Jerome Julies, Pollycarpus Kgomo, Luthando Tsodo, Nonofo Olekeng, Bafikile Sedibe, Noni Makhathini, Elizma Wildschutte, Constance Mchunu and Wendy-Lee Michaels. Singers include Phumlani Mazibuko, Tumelo Tokgwi, Phumlani Mkhize, Buti Mothamaha, Muzi Mkhize, Lloyd Rathebe, Calvin Grandling, Ronell Morgan, Nokubonga Khuzwayo, Sindisiwe Nxumalo, Puleng Tollie and Joyce Hopane.

The show will be staged by the award winning Julie Taymor who won a Tony Award in 1998 as best director of The Lion King on Broadway, the first woman to ever win this accolade.

Elements of the production are being prepared in Pretoria while hundreds of builders and craftsmen are working around the clock to create a beautiful home for the show at the Teatro at Montecasino. has invested a R130 million in the theatre and it will be the most high tech and stunning venue of its kind anywhere in Africa.

The Lion King show runs for two hours and 30 minutes and is recommended for anyone from six to 96 years! Ticket prices range from R150 to R425. Booking is open at Computicket or the Montecasino box office. Booking is open until September 9. Performance times are on Tuesday to Friday at 20h00, Saturday at 14h00 and 20h00; Sunday at 13h30 and 18h30. From July 17 the Sunday 18h30 performance will fall away to be replaced by matinees on a Wednesday which are scheduled for children from disadvantaged backgrounds - a programme made possible by the Telkom sponsorship.

For group bookings of 20 tickets or more contact Geraldine on 011 511 1988 or e-mail geraldine@montetheatre.co.za

Disney's “The Lion King in South Africa” will be co-produced by Lebo M and Pieter Toerien with Bongani Tembe as associated producer. The South African production has been sponsored by Telkom in association with SABC, British Airways and Southern Sun.




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