The close-knit cast and their incredible talents are two of the main reasons why Disney’s The Lion King been successful for so long.
That is the opinion of actor Shaun Escoffery, aka Mufasa, who has played Simba’s father in London’s Lyceum Theatre production for approaching 15 years.
The show has now been running in the West End for 23 years and the appetite for it shows no sign of diminishing – among audiences or its cast.
“I love the show, love the company and love the role – there’s always something new to find in it,” said Shaun, who splits his time between acting and bringing out soul and R&B records.
“When I first auditioned people told me how it’s a family thing and it’s true, there’s a real love there between the cast and that definitely translates onto the stage.”
The opening of the show is an unforgettable scene where all the actors in their incredible costumes – including a giant elephant, giraffe, and zebra – make their way through the audience to the stage, while performing the iconic Circle of Life.
“That first scene is so immersive, it draws you in, you are in the Savannah,” said Shaun, adding that the authentic South African music is another reason behind the show’s success.
“After Covid, when we had 18 months out, I forgot that South African sound and the first time I heard it again I got goosebumps and people were getting emotional,” he said.
“The talent on that stage still hits me every time. One time a woman was in tears after the show, she was overwhelmed, and she said it was because she was gutted that she wouldn’t get to experience it for the first time again.”
Shaun, who has three children of his own, said the role of Mufasa has helped him in his own personal life too.
“I love Mufasa, he is extremely humble, stoic and regal, as well as a strong warrior king,” he said.
“He is multi-layered, and being a dad I can bring that aspect to the performance in an honest way. Playing the character has matured me as a father and as a man.”
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He added: “My youngest daughter was six or seven when she first saw it and afterwards she said ‘Daddy you’re only a lion on stage aren’t you?’ She was overwhelmed, I will never forget that look on her face.”
After nearly 15 years in the role Shaun said the show still excites him and that he would happily see himself staying on as part of the cast for many years to come.
He added: “If there are people who haven’t seen the show, I can honestly say it’s like nothing they will have ever seen before.”