Debbie Hall

The Lion King


One of the biggest shows to come to Las Vegas is Disney’s THE LION KING. This is also the first ever Disney production in Las Vegas, demonstrating the fact that we are the entertainment capital of the world. Also, unlike other Broadway productions brought to Las Vegas that were cut to fit a 90-minute time slot, THE LION KING is the full 2½ hour performance including intermission. THE LION KING transports the audience from their seats to the beauty of Africa and the majesty of the animals who call it home. It is visually stunning, the music is inspiring and the storyline touches the heart about family, betrayal, power and love. 

THE LION KING at Mandalay Bay joins the seven other highly successful companies of THE LION KING including New York, London, Hamburg, Paris, Tokyo and Fukuoka, as well as the North American National Tour.  

"The Las Vegas production is every bit the equal of the spectacular Broadway experience," said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Group. "From the stunning procession of animals that fill the aisles during 'Circle of Life' and the wildebeest stampede to the show's climactic battle, all of the magic of the original vision will be realized onstage at Mandalay Bay." 

"Mandalay Bay is known for offering its guests exciting and spectacular entertainment options," said Bill Hornbuckle, president and chief operating officer of Mandalay Bay. "The addition of THE LION KING, one of the most successful production shows in history, continues this tradition. We are certain THE LION KING's international appeal will be embraced by Las Vegas locals and visitors alike." 

Kissy Simmons will reprise her role as “Nala,” jumping from six years on Broadway and touring for 1 ½ years to the stage at Mandalay Bay.  Born in outside of Floral City Florida, 65 miles southeast of Orlando, with a population of 5,000, Simmons received her musical training in church and also plays piano and clarinet. She credits her high school drama teacher with both motivating and pushing her into a dramatic career.  

Although she has performed and traveled throughout the country, Las Vegas was never one of her stops but she is excited to be starring in Disney’s The Lion in Las Vegas. “I think (Las Vegas) is more glamorous, perhaps because it’s my face on the billboards but when you think of Las Vegas, you think of glamour, the big luxurious hotels and the strip and people really dressing up. People dress up in New York but it is just different here and I feel more glamorous,” she said.  “The Lion King is a family show. I think it is going to be really great here because it is something that everyone can take something from, it is not just a kid’s show. … Just come and expect to be blown away.” 

The malevolent "Scar" is played by Thom Sesma, whose credits include "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "The Man of La Mancha" and "La Cage Aux Folles" on Broadway. Alton F. White plays the lion king "Mufasa." Mr. White's credits include THE LION KING's Broadway company, "Ragtime," "Tommy," "The Color Purple" and "Miss Saigon" on Broadway. Buyi Zama, a native of South Africa, is the wise "Rafiki." Ms. Zama has performed in seven productions of THE LION KING, including London, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai, South Africa, Taipei and the national tour; her credits also include backing as a vocalist for artists such as Whitney Houston and Rebecca Malope. 

Mufasa's son, "Simba," is played by Clifton Oliver, who is an alumnus of Douglas Anderson School of Arts and has numerous theatre credits including featured roles in THE LION KING's Los Angeles production and national tour, in addition to "Grease," "Rent" and "Wicked" on Broadway. 

The meerkat "Timon" is played by Damian Baldet, who has appeared in THE LION KING's national tour in addition to productions of "Frankenstein," "Attempts on Her Life," "The Rats Are Getting Bigger" and "Gone Missing." Patrick Kerr, who portrays "Zazu," appeared as KACL's Noel on "Frasier" and recently performed in "The Ritz" on Broadway. Adam Kozlowski portrays "Pumbaa" the warthog and has appeared in "Scrooge" the musical on national tour. 

The three hyenas are played by Keith Bennett ("Banzai"), an original cast member of THE LION KING, whose additional credits include the Broadway productions of "Oh, Kay!" and "The High Rollers Social and Pleasure Club"; Jacquie Hodges ("Shenzi"), who has performed off Broadway in "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide" and in the national tours of THE LION KING and "Aida"; and Robbie Swift ("Ed"), acting graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul University, who toured nationally with THE LION KING and recently played "Linus" in the West Coast premiere of "Snoopy." 

Performances in the role of "Young Simba" are alternated between Duane Ervin and Elijah Johnson. The role of "Young Nala" is alternated between Ruby Crawford and Jade Nelson. 

The cast includes nine South African natives; and two ensemble members, Joseph Rivera and Renata Renee Wilson, from Las Vegas. 

The show is performed Monday through Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. 

Tickets for Disney's THE LION KING at Mandalay Bay are available for $53, $86 and $113.50. VIP packages, which include premium seating, a complimentary souvenir program and a complimentary VIP show merchandise item, are available for $168.50. Taxes are included in all prices. Tickets can be purchased at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations; through the box office at 632-7580 or Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000; and online at:, or


Celebrity Chef Connection posts a new broadcast every Wednesday by 5 p.m. at On the home page, click on the link [view current show] on the right-hand side and that will take you to the Current Show page where you can select how you want to view the show. The program is also archived. If you have any questions or comments contact Debbie Hall at [email protected] or 702-279-8116.

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