SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Disney's The Lion King is returning to the Bay Area! The show is back on stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, Aug. 3 through Aug. 21.
ABC7 News anchor Reggie Aqui talked to one of the leads, Gerard Ramsey. Ramsey has been playing the role of Mufasa for a few years. His journey to get there, particularly as a Pacific Islander is quite interesting.
"I thought what is a Polynesian doing in an African show, but when it comes down to it, South African Zulu culture, Polynesian culture, we're connected straight to the center of the earth," said Ramsey.
He is Samoan, born in Tacoma, Washington, then moved to Samoa when he was young. He ended up in Saudi Arabia for middle school and high school, and finally in Hawai'i, which Ramsey says was the next closest thing to home.
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Reggie asked him how he came to be in Disney's The Lion King as Mufasa: "I was working out at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore in Laie, and a friend of mine, she saw the open auditions for The Lion King, and she was suggesting that a few of us should go audition. But, you know, we don't really see Polynesians in musicals. I had never seen a musical myself, so I thought there's no chance, which I think, kind of alleviated the pressure. But as soon as she said she'll take me to YogurStory behind Ala Moana, I said 'yea, let's go, let's go!'"
During the audition, Ramsey wasn't sure what the casting agents were saying behind closed doors. He was nervous.
"As dancers, you know, we don't make a lot of money in Hawai'i, so I couldn't even afford the piano sheet music, so I took my guitar with me to try to play, you know, my own accompaniment. It was an incredible experience," said Ramsey.
Ramsey has been touring with Disney's The Lion King since 2015, although they had to shut down for a time, the crew is very happy to be back. The last time Ramsey was in San Jose was actually his first year on tour.
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There are almost 50 cast members in the musical with several of them from Africa. Ramsey talks about his leading role as "one of the big things that we're raised within Samoa is the saying, 'the road to righteousness is through service.' I've always viewed a leader, you know, or a chief, as someone who serves. So the more responsibility you have, the higher you are in leadership, the more you owe to your community. And that's the way I was raised by my grandparents, so that's what I try to bring to Mufasa."
"And that's who we are as Polynesians, as Samoans, as Hawaiians, like we're full of hospitality, you know, and we're full of generosity, and that's what I want to bring, that's the spirit I want to bring across the country as we travel."
Ramsey hopes that through his role he can show his family and others you can make a really good living off of one of your passions. He says there is so much talent in the Pacific and he wishes more would step out, show up and just try.
As an Anthropology major in college, he reflects on his journey, "you just have to show up, man, you know, it's not up to you to decide 'am I good enough.' You prepare as best as you can, and then you just show up and you be yourself. And if you are what they're looking for, man, the job is yours.'
Reggie and Ramsey closed the interview with lyrics from one of the musical's songs: "Wait, there's no mountain too great. Hear the words and have faith." (Original song written and performed by Lebo M.)
For more information about the show and tickets, visit: broadwaysanjose.com