Jamaicans have always found a place in the cast of the “Lion King,” Broadway’s most profitable musical. From 1994 when the animated film classic starred James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Cheech Marin and others, Jamaican Madge Sinclair voiced the character Sarabi.
Kingston-born choreographer Garth Fagan won theater’s highest honor in 1998 by winning a Tony in the best choreographer category of the coveted annual awards presentation.
Now Chantel Riley is winning applause nightly as the lovable feline who manages to lure Simba the lion back to his beloved homeland. Riley has been performing the principal role on Broadway since 2013 and prior to that spent a year in Hamburg, Germany roaring to “Shadowland.”
She won the role after auditioning during an open call and still cannot believe that with is now a Broadway star. Few actresses make their debut on Broadway. Riley attributes much of her fast-rise to the top to her Jamaican parents, Joan and Errol Riley.
The couple migrated to Toronto, Canada and introduced their daughter to the Kingdom Covenant Centre in Toronto where she joined the choir and honed her skills as a performer. From her early years, she combined a dedication to her Christian faith with a love of performing and voila! She is now and has been the lioness from Yard and the pride of Broadway.
GRENADA’S JOHNSON FAMILY BOAST THREE BROADWAY STARS
St. Georges, Grenada gets bragging rights for nurturing a triumvirate of young thespians that have all starred on Broadway. Native Spice Islander Ben Johnson, the father of 14-year-old Derek, 12-year-old Andrew and 8-year-old Nicholas takes the prize for honing the skills of his sons who have all been featured on the Great White Way in “The Lion King,” and “Kinky Boots.”
Together with his wife Fredericka from Haiti, the parents to five boys are unique with three among the cast of Tony Award winning musicals.
Derek portrayed Simba, the young lion in the king of all Broadway musicals; Andrew toured in the Cyndi Lauper musical that humorously spotlights the manufacturing, sale and promotion of shoes and boots in “Kinky Boots.”
His younger brother also followed his steps in the Tony-award winning production on Broadway.