Open call auditions for kids to join Disney's international Lion King production to be held in Auckland next weekend

The award-winning stage show version of The Lion King is coming to Auckland in June, and recruiters are wasting no time in finding their local leads.
Promoters have put out an open casting call for two kids aged between 8 and 11 to play the parts of Young Simba and Young Nala in the Auckland season, and any subsequent international tours.

Audition registrations close Wednesday March 23, and they will be held in a central Auckland location starting next Friday, March 26.

Oscar Crafts played the role of Young Simba, with Ivy Roberts playing Young Nala in the St Peter's Cambridge production of The Lion King (2017).

Previous performance experience is not necessary, and children of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend: The opportunity will suit children with personality, as well as natural actors/singers who can move well, the callout reads.

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It will be the first time the show, which is based on the Disney film, has visited in New Zealand, and while it is being touted as a strictly limited season, there is no indication how many shows the cast will perform while they are in the country.

The advert says children who are awarded the roles must be available exclusively from 3 May 18 July 2021 and, notably, any child who is cast in the production must be prepared to travel internationally with a parent/guardian following the Auckland season".

It is safe to assume this condition has been included following news that New Zealand could have a trans-Tasman bubble as early as next month.

A spokesperson for the producers told Stuff: Disney's The Lion King is an internationally touring company. Options for future seasons are still in the planning stage at this time, so no further countries or dates are yet announced.

Rehearsals for the Auckland season of The Lion King begin in May with our casting process designed to meet this timeline.

Mathew Murphy/Supplied
The Lion King stage show will be hitting these shores in June 2021.

The international touring company already comprises some 16 nationalities, but ahead of the New Zealand run, promoters have previously said five young locals will join the show. It is unclear if the remaining three roles are yet to be posted, or if Young Simba and Young Nala will have understudies.

To play the young cubs, children must be actors and singers who can move well.

The future King and Queen of the Pridelands should be: "A natural talent with charm and charisma, able to hold the stage on his/her own with confidence."

Recruiters will be looking for children with personality, the advert says.

Children will be asked to sing I Just Cant Wait to be King for their audition, and learn a short piece of choreography on the day.

The successful candidates will be paid in line with industry standards".

Mathew Murphy/Supplied
Nala and Simba in the stage show of the Lion King. The stage production is based on Sir Elton John and Tim Rices music from the animated film, along with three new songs. It has won six Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical.

However, not everyone is happy about the production going ahead.

News that 126 people involved in The Lion King play had been granted visas under the other critical worker category has drawn the ire of rural farmers who are struggling to get workers and local entertainers.

Local director Terry OConnor's request for one border exemption for his show Jeresey Boys, that has a 99 per cent local cast, was declined.

He is "pretty devastated" that the international show was being awarded priority above local productions like his that would keep New Zealanders in paid work for nearly four months, he said.

Adding that money and attention should be funnelled into local talent rather than showcasing large scale shows from overseas, at least for the time being.

Given the economic ravages we have had to endure with every lockdown, New Zealand companies need a chance to recover. In our industry, while our borders remain closed, we have a chance to employ New Zealanders.

Mathew Murphy/Supplied
The international touring cast travelling to New Zealand has already played to audiences in Singapore, South Korea, Philippines and Taiwan, since debuting in Manila in March 2018. It was last performed in Hong Kong in January 2020, before the next stop on their tour Wuhan, China and any following those dates were cancelled, due to the global pandemic.

Former opera singer and New Zealand Order of Merit recipient Helen Medlyn echoed OConnor's concerns about available space in MIQ facilities and months of show cancellations in the local entertainment industry.

She sent a letter of complaint to the Arts Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi over The Lion King decision.

A number of rural businesses affected by the severe seasonal labour shortage complained simultaneously that while the show goes ahead, their needs are being disregarded by the Government.

The full number of non-New Zealanders allowed into the country since lockdown has gone beyond 35,000.

The Lion King premiered on stage on November 13, 1997, and since then more than 100 million people worldwide have seen it; it is the only show in history to generate six productions worldwide running 15 or more years

The Tony award-winning production will premiere at Auckland's Spark Arena on June 24 and Young Simba and Young Nala auditions will be held on Friday 26, Saturday 27, and Sunday 28 March 2021.


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