The Ensemblist is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Lion King on Broadway by asking some of our favorite ensemblists to share their stories of performing in the iconic Broadway musical. First up, we hear from L. Steven Taylor, who has spent over a decade in the production and currently plays Mufasa on Broadway.
I stood there atop the hill made of brown skin and earth tones. The bright lights seemed to accentuate a flicker at the tips of grass that was worn atop their heads. A smile registered in my heart as I swayed in unison and sang in harmony with my new family during my Broadway debut in the ensemble of The Lion King.
That was 2005. I joined the company as a temporary replacement in the ensemble and Mufasa understudy. I had only a shortened amount of time to learn the show and most of that was spent away from my fellow ensemble members, but the welcome reception that I received when I joined the company immediately felt like I was returning home.
The ensemble of any show is usually the heartbeat. That is particularly true with this show - literally some of the rhythms that we sing are meant to give the feel of a heart beating. Aside from that, though, is how we became each other's lifelines offstage - supporting one another through deaths and births and illness and success.
I left to play Mufasa on the tour for a couple of years and recently rejoined the Broadway company to play the role here. There is no way that transition would've happened without the support of my cast - especially the ensemble, giving me words of encouragement, Blunt truths and keeping it real with me along the way.
The great thing about The Lion King is that it is an ensemble-driven show. So even as a principal, you feel part of that heartbeat that starts with Wildebeest #2 or Gazelle #4. (Wildebeest #2 was meeee!)
I have made it a point to continue my offstage social cues from my ensemble track from back in 2005. It was a way we kept each other grounded then and that still holds true for the now. I'll never forget where I came from or that this show does not exist without its heartbeat: The Ensemble.
L. Steven Taylor (Wildebeest #2, Grasshead #5)