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Our chat with Bradley Gibson, a Broadway star who played Simba in The Lion King musical

Gibson joins an all-star cast who’ll perform at The Lion King 30th anniversary concert happening at the Hollywood Bowl

Before that story, here’s what you should also know this week

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that the Avatar experience touted to come to Disneyland Resort in California as part of the now-approved DisneylandForward project, would be similar to the Pandora, the Avatar-themed land at Walt Disney World.

  • Donald Duck celebrates his 90th birthday with a new apparel and product line from Disney Consumer Products. Check our

  • Fantasmic!, the beloved nighttime spectacular at Disneyland Park, will return with new special effects, and the return of the fan-favorite Peter Pan segment on May 24- all just in time for the Memorial Day weekend and start of the busy summer travel season for all Disney Experiences.

  • Airbnb has debuted Edna Mode’s house, from Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” as its second Disney-themed Icons locations that guests can apply to book beginning May 24.

It’s a [Full] Circle of Life moment.

It’s hard to believe that Disney’s The Lion King animated film will have debuted 30 years ago this June. Still, the celebration will start a few weeks earlier in May with a celebrity-filled concert at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. One of those stars who will be performing will be Bradley Gibson, who took a turn at playing Simba in the Broadway musical from 2018 to 2020.

We spoke to Gibson on a video call before he traveled to Los Angeles to begin rehearsals for the anniversary concert.

Bradley Gibson

DE: How does it feel returning to the role of Simba, and in this particular way?

BG: It was a mix of two big thoughts: feeling honored and feeling nervous. When you see the lineup of people performing in this anniversary concert, you can’t help but feel honored that you’re part of the legacy that is The Lion King. From the original voice cast from the animated film to some of our other Broadway cast- and then North West and Heather Headley!- I cannot believe that all these years have brought all this talent together.

DE: So what are you nervous about when you’re in the company of these performing greats?!

BG: I guess! I suppose I thought [the concert] was going to require me to put on the Simba costume again because my physique is not ready for that intensity again!

DE: If it’s not performing in the costume, what is it that you’re performing then?

BG: I get to perform one song from the Broadway Lion King show called “Endless Nights,” and I have the deepest connection to the song. No matter how many times I’ve performed it, it always has found renewed meaning for me each time, especially since the pandemic. There’s this line in it that says “I know that the night must end/ And that the sun will rise,” and I hope the message of carrying on and having hope resonates with me during the concert and with the 18,000 people who’ll be there, too.

DE: And why do you think all those people will show up for this anniversary concert? What about The Lion King’s story and characters connect with audiences that now span generations and races?

GB: I have a lot to say about that, and I may get emotional sharing it, but I think all those people are like me. The Lion King and Disney Animation shaped me as a kid of the 90s. Because of the movie and the movies that were part of the ‘Disney Renaissance,’ I quickly became a student of storytelling, great theater, and song structure which really framed my desire of wanting to go into the performing arts as a career. The Lion King musical was the first musical I ever watched, and that was a more affirming thing to experience seeing an African tale be performed by Black actors. However, more than anything, I think The Lion King connected my mom and me in a deeper way.

DE: See? That’s how those Disney movies get you.

GB: Yes, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I remember my mom crying at the end of the animated movie and seeing her ride that same emotional wave that I was riding when I was a kid bonded us. It’s really a power of great storytelling like that that can have lasting effects like between a mother and her son.

DE: Now her son gets to perform that same story in the most grand way. Kind of like its own Circle-of-Life moment for the both of you.

GB: Haha, yes, that’s the most perfect way to put it!


See Bradley Gibson perform live, as well as Nathan Lane, Heather Headley, Jeremy Irons, North West, Jennifer Hudson, and more at Disney’s The Lion King 30th Anniversary: A Live-to-Film Concert Event at the Hollywood Bowl on May 24 and 25, 2024. Tickets are still available at the Hollywood Bowl website

The concert will also be filmed and debut exclusively on Disney+ later this year.

STILL TO COME: a tour of the Jim Henson Company lot and Creature Shop!

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