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Sunday, March 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Kingly beginnings: Many well-known actors have found a home in the Pride Lands

Heather Headley appears in costume for the
Heather Headley appears in costume for the "The Lion King," the Broadway stage version of the Disney film, in this 1997 publicity photo. (MARC BRYAN-BROWN / File/Associated Press)

After more than 21 years on Broadway, three U.S. national tours, long runs in London, Hamburg, Tokyo and Madrid, and an international touring company, there have been a lot of actors who have worked in “The Lion King.”

And many of those actors have gone on to work in film, television and on stage. Here are a few of the notable veterans of “The Lion King.”

Christopher Jackson made his Broadway debut as an ensemble member of the original Broadway cast of “The Lion King,” and assumed the role of Simba later in its run. He would go on to perform in musicals such as “Memphis,” “After Midnight” and “Bronx Bombers” before originating the role of Benny in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning “In the Heights.” He earned a Tony nomination for his work as George Washington in Miranda’s smash hit “Hamilton.” He currently can be found playing Chunk Palmer on CBS’ procedural “Bull.”

Heather Headley originated the role of Nala on Broadway, and followed that up with a leading role in the original cast of “Aida,” winning the Tony for best actress in a musical in 2000. She has shared stages with Nathan Lane, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban, and starred as Rachel Marron in “The Bodyguard” in London and as Shug Avery in “The Color Purple” on Broadway. She has a recurring role on the NBC series “Chicago Med,” and was featured in Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” for Netflix in 2017.

Wallace Smith, like Jackson, would go from “Lion King” to “Hamilton.” Smith also moved from the “Lion King” ensemble into the role of Simba, first on tour and then on Broadway. He followed that up with roles in the Broadway runs of “American Idiot” and “Rocky,” and the revivals of “Hair,” “Godspell” and “Ragtime.” He’s currently on Broadway in “Hamilton” as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison.

Derrick Davis was in the ensemble, and played Scar and Mufsasa, during a stint with the Broadway show from 2012-16. In 2017, he donned a mask and took us beneath Paris as the Phantom in the national tour of “Phantom of the Opera,” which played Spokane in June and July 2017.

Alton Fitzgerald White is one of the longest reigning Mufasas, having portrayed the kingly role for 4,308 performances over 12 years on tour, in Las Vegas, and on Broadway. He would go on to play Coalhouse Walker in “Ragtime” and Mister in “The Color Purple” on Broadway, and will appear in the film “The Goldfinch” later this year.

Samuel E. Wright already had some serious cred coming into “The Lion King” when he originated the role of Mufasa on Broadway. He was a Tony nominee in 1984 for his work in “The Tap Dance Kid,” and he supplied the voice of Sebastian in the 1989 Disney animated hit “The Little Mermaid.” Yes, that’s Wright’s voice you hear singing “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” He also played Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film “Bird.”

Max Casella was a well-established actor – he played Vinnie Delpino on “Doogie Howser, M.D” – when he originated Timon on Broadway. He would go on to play Bennie Fazio on “The Sopranos,” Leo D’Alessio on “Boardwalk Empire” and Julie Silver on “Vinyl.” His movie credits include the Woody Allen films “Blue Jasmine” and “Wonder Wheel,” Ben Affleck’s “They Live By Night,” and “Jackie” with Natalie Portman. In 2019, he’ll be seen in the Mindy Kaling-scripted “Late Night,” with Emma Thompson and John Lithgow, and “The Rhythm Section” with Blake Lively and Jude Law.

Sydnee Winters first entered the Pride Lands in 2010 as Nala on the national tour. Since then, she’s played Mary Wells in “Motown: The Musical,” and Leading Player in “Pippin.” Most recently, she was in the company of “Hamilton,” as a replacement/understudy for the Schuyler Sisters, and in 2018 appeared in the NBC live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Just recently she’s returned to the Pride Lands, and the role Nala, for “The Lion King” on Broadway.

Adam Jacobs portrayed Simba on tour and on Broadway in 2011 and 2012. He then moved on to another Disney show, “Aladdin,” where he originated the title role on Broadway from its opening in 2014 until he left the show in 2017 to launch the show’s first national tour.

Paulette Ivory, who originated Nala in the West End production of “The Lion King,” has maintained a busy acting career. She’s made appearances on television shows such as “Criminal Minds” and “Numb3rs.” On stage, she played the title role in the first U.S. national tour of “Aida,” and appeared on tour, Broadway and the West End with “Fela!”

Patrick Page, who was born in Spokane and raised in Western Oregon, played Scar on tour and on Broadway. Before that, he played Lumiere in the Broadway production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” and followed up his stint in the Pride Lands with Broadway roles in “Julius Caesar,” starring Denzel Washington, “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (as the Grinch), and “A Man for All Seasons,” starring Frank Langella. He notably originated the dual role of Norman Osborne and Green Goblin in “Lion King” director Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” (While that show was savaged by critics, Page’s performance was praised by most.)

Lindiwe Dlamini is a “Lion King” veteran in the truest sense of the word. The actress joined the cast for the show’s out-of-town tryout in Minneapolis in July 1997 and has been with the Broadway company ever since. She’s an ensemble member who understudies Shenzi, and according to a 2017 profile in Playbill, she’s the company’s “unofficial den mother.” As she told Playbill, “We make people feel better when things are tough. People come here to get away from their problems, so we are here to make sure people come out of this show feeling good. And it does that for us too.”

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