“We’ll do whatever we need to be back,” Teta said. “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 won six Tony Awards, including best musical), is the third longest-running Broadway show (after “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago”) and Dlamini is the only member of the original cast still performing in the show. She became an American citizen through the show (she is from South Africa), married another cast member and made a life around her work here; she is in the ensemble, and at the opening played a hyena, a lioness, a flock of birds and a square of savanna.
How was it being out of the show for the first time? “It was weird,” she said. “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 also traumatic. Her husband, daughter, son and sister all got Covid (they recovered), and back in South Africa, a cousin and her husband died of the disease.
“I’ve been so worried about people back home, and I couldn’t go home and be with my family,” she said. “It was tough, and it was very emotional.”
And what was it like being back? “Really, really emotional,” she said. “It’s such a huge part of my life.”
“The Lion King” has over the years had 25 productions around the world that have played to nearly 110 million people; it has been performed on every continent (except Antarctica) and in nine languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese).
All of nine productions running when the pandemic hit closed. With tonight’s Broadway reopening there are now five productions of “The Lion King” running, and by January there should be 10, in New York, London, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo and Madrid plus four touring productions.