Lindiwe Dlamini Returns to ‘The Lion King’ Stage

Lindiwe Dlamini has spent 24 years of her life with “The Lion King.” She was with the present when it tried out in Minneapolis, and has been within the Broadway manufacturing for its whole run.

Needless to say, the final 18 months have been jarring, and he or she’s glad to be again.

“Oh, my God — it’s a huge one tonight,” she mentioned. “I’m excited and anxious and every emotion you can think of. Mostly it’s really exciting to be back. We’ve been away a long time.”

In an business that loves its superlatives, “The Lion King” has greater than its share. It’s the highest-grossing present in Broadway historical past (practically $1.7 billion) and its worldwide grosses (greater than $9.three billion) exceed these of any movie, Broadway present or different leisure title in historical past.

On Tuesday, it reopened, to a rapturous and packed home, with an viewers that included alumni of Disney exhibits, a variety of followers, plus Gloria Steinem, Salman Rushdie and Kristin Chenoweth (who had a busy evening, talking earlier on the reopening of “Wicked,” the place she had originated the function of Glinda).

“This is like water in a desert,” Chenoweth mentioned in an interview throughout intermission at “The Lion King,” her masks glittering and her eyes moist. “If this isn’t an argument that art can change lives then I don’t know what is.”

The viewers was rapturous, giving a standing ovation to the director Julie Taymor at first of the present, and greeting every character, human or puppet, with one other spherical of applause. “It was a miracle the first time — I think I saw it at least three times,” Steinem, whose life was the topic of a movie Taymor directed, mentioned in an interview. “And I think Julie Taymor can do anything.”

Taymor, in a speech to the viewers earlier than the present started, mentioned she was appreciative of those that had braved a nerve-racking second to come again to theater.

“I want to applaud this audience, tonight, our reopening, because you all have the desire, the enthusiasm, the courage to lead the way,” she mentioned. “Because as we know theater in New York is the lifeblood and soul of the city.”

Many within the viewers have been repeat attenders (Taymor requested for a present of fingers), however there have been loads of newbies, too. Heather Teta introduced her two daughters, ages 9 and 6, to see it for the primary time; on Sunday they have been examined for the coronavirus as a result of they’re too younger to be vaccinated.

“We’ll do whatever we need to be back,” Teta mentioned. “It’s reopening night — why wouldn’t we be here? And to come and support the Broadway community as well.”

The musical, which opened in 1997 (and received six Tony Awards, together with finest musical), is the third longest-running Broadway present (after “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago”) and Dlamini is the one member of the unique forged nonetheless performing within the present. She turned an American citizen by way of the present (she is from South Africa), married one other forged member and made a life round her work right here; she is within the ensemble, and on the opening performed a hyena, a lioness, a flock of birds and a sq. of savanna.

How was it being out of the present for the primary time? “It was weird,” she mentioned. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years now, and to just stop out of nowhere! I was on a bus, on my way to work, when I got the call, and I had to get off at the next stop.”

The shutdown was additionally traumatic. Her husband, daughter, son and sister all received Covid (they recovered), and again in South Africa, a cousin and her husband died of the illness.

“I’ve been so worried about people back home, and I couldn’t go home and be with my family,” she mentioned. “It was tough, and it was very emotional.”

And what was it like being again? “Really, really emotional,” she mentioned. “It’s such a huge part of my life.”

“The Lion King” has over time had 25 productions all over the world which have performed to practically 110 million individuals; it has been carried out on each continent (besides Antarctica) and in 9 languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese).

All of 9 productions operating when the pandemic hit closed. With tonight’s Broadway reopening there are actually 5 productions of “The Lion King” operating, and by January there ought to be 10, in New York, London, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo and Madrid plus 4 touring productions.