Thursday, April 28, 2011

A local star is born as first Singaporean joins the talented cast of Disney’s landmark musical, The Lion King in Singapore



Disney Theatrical Productions provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the international stage to 11-year-old Nicholas Papayoanou

Disney Theatrical Productions in association with BASE Entertainment and Marina Bay Sands today revealed that 11-year-old Singaporean, Nicholas Papayoanou, will join the international cast of award-winning musical The Lion King – making him the first Singaporean to be cast in a production of this calibre. Nicholas’ debut will be at the Sands Theater on Saturday, 23 April at the 2pm matinee.

With only two younger roles in the entire production, Nicholas joins the team of 51 talented cast members to deliver a performance of a lifetime. The Singapore production is comprised of the cream of The Lion King performers, including veterans of the acclaimed London and Paris productions and hails from 10 countries and 5 continents. The role of “Young Simba” will be alternated between Nicholas, Lance Reblando and Warren David Saga. Nicholas will be on stage with principal cast including Jonathan Andrew Hume, who plays “adult Simba”, the lion prince born to be king and Jean Luc Guizonne aka Jee-L who plays “Mufasa”, the great warrior and ruler of the Pridelands and father to Simba.

Born and raised in Singapore, Nicholas, a student at St. Joseph's Institution Junior (SJIJ), received his first vocal training as a member of the St. Joseph’s Institution Junior’s choir and participated in the Singapore Youth Festival in 2008 and 2010. In 2009, Nicholas played the lead role of the Little Prince in Republic Polytechnic’s musical adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. In 2010, Nicholas joined Kids Performing™ where he has further developed his vocal and performance experience as a member of the Kids Performing Choir. Nicholas said he is ecstatic about the biggest role of his acting career to date. “I’m excited about the role but I am also nervous! But every single person in The Lion King team has been very good to me and they are all making me feel very comfortable. I hope to do my best on the stage and make everyone proud,” said Nicholas.

The Lion King Singapore Resident Director Michael Eckel, said Nicholas instantly stood out during the auditions held at the Sands Theater in March. “Theater performance is an incredibly powerful form of expression. At the same time it’s a very difficult platform as there are no second takes when a cast member executes an act in front of a live audience. Talent like Nicholas’ is treasured immensely in our industry and we are lucky to have discovered him. You either have it or not. And just at 11 years of age, Nicholas certainly has it!”

Mr. George Tanasijevich, Interim Chief Executive Officer for Marina Bay Sands and Managing Director of Global Development for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said, “Marina Bay Sands created this beautifully designed Sands Theater with the aim of elevating the performing arts industry in Singapore. Disney’s discovery of an exceptional talent like Nicholas’ has not only helped us achieve this but has also put Singaporean talent on the global stage.”

On stage, Director Julie Taymor’s creative vision blends elements of African art and Broadway artisanship to depict anthropomorphic animal characters. The sardonic and deviously cunning “Scar” is played by Patrick Brown. Puleng March is the loyal lioness “Nala and Gugwana Dlamini is the wise baboon shaman “Rafiki”. Lyall Ramsden plays the prim and proper horn billed bird “Zazu”. Pierre van Heerden is the carefree warthog “Pumbaa” and Jamie McGregor is the wisecracking meerkat “Timon”.”

The three evil hyenas are played by Lavina Williams, Simon Gwala and Michael Bagg. The role of “Young Nala” is alternated between Christina De Leon, Myka Torre and Nikki Samonte.

Milan Rokic, Vice President and Managing Director of BASE Entertainment Asia said, “This musical has been brought here to Singapore to build from the ground up and together with the artists from around the world and now within Singapore; we are thrilled to be able to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Singaporeans such as Nicholas who are keen to pursue theater and the entertainment industry as a career”. This production just keeps embracing Singapore and in return Singapore is enjoying what true, quality Broadway Theater is all about and I know that Nicholas will do everyone proud.”

Singapore is the latest leading city to host The Lion King after sell out performances in New York, London, Hamburg, a North American tour, Tokyo and Las Vegas. The musical is of the same Broadway-quality standards, spectacular music, dance, sets and costumes that have made it a worldwide phenomenon, however, it has also added some local elements to make this production unique to Singapore.

The Lion King began as a 1994 animated feature-length film developed and produced by the Walt Disney Company. The story, a coming of age parable set among animals indigenous to its setting, the African savanna, tells the tale of Simba, the lion cub who rises to be the King of the jungle.

The Lion King’s presenting sponsor is OCBC Bank, while MediaCorp TV 5 is the Official TV Station, Class 95 is the official radio station and Showbiz Asia is the official packaging partner; Singapore Airlines is the official airline, and it’s proudly supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.


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