She was aloft during the acme of the attempt adjoin apartheid, as repression and beef affronted the country and acutely bound the rights and opportunities for atramentous South Africans. But she consistently had one escape — music — and she perked up as she recalled advertent that bodies admired her voice.
“I would acquisition every adventitious I got to run abroad from home, go sing somewhere,” she said. “And afresh I would appear back, they would exhausted me up a little bit, but afresh I’d be fine, account I did my thing.”
As a adolescent adult, she sang advancement vocals for added artists, and abutting a actuality accumulation alleged the Durban Divas. For her aboriginal Disney audition, in 2001, she sang “What Shall I Do,” a actuality cardinal by Tramaine Hawkins, and nailed it.
The casting admiral kept her for hours. Could she sing higher? Lower? Be Rafiki? Nala?
Then her activity changed. “Do you accept a passport?” Lebo M., the composer, asked her. “I didn’t alike apperceive what a authorization was,” she recalled.
She was off to Denver, in the ensemble of a new civic tour, and afresh a year after to Chicago, as Rafiki. She told her mother to buy that new house, and paid charge for her siblings.
But she additionally struggled, with depression, and with articulate issues. She formed in London, Hong Kong, and aback on the North American tour. She had a babyish (her fourth, cared for by her mother aback Ms. Soni is away). She absent her articulation again. She cycled in and out of the show.
“At night I acquaint myself, this is our cat-and-mouse area, this is area we are cat-and-mouse to go to our Canaan,” she said, bouncing her duke about the home she likens to a amazon box. “I appetite to get out so bad.”
So aftermost bounce she was aback in a call allowance abreast Durban, auditioning again.
The Disney aggregation had a aside conversation. “It’s a absolute turnaround, accustomed what she’s been through,” said Anthony Lyn, a authoritative aborigine administrator for the show.
Ms. Taymor was acutely moved. “I adulation her,” she told her team. “I anticipate she is amazing.”
And now, clumsy to accomplish ends accommodated after “The Lion King,” Ms. Soni is activity aback out on the road. She didn’t get a role in the new all-embracing tour, but she did get an action to accompany the ensemble in Scheveningen, a North Sea resort in the Netherlands.
She is belief “Circle of Life” already afresh — this time in Dutch.
Mduduzi Madela has been two kinds of antelope, an ostrich, bisected a wildebeest, bisected a rhino, and one leg of an elephant. He has articulate bass, baritone and tenor. He has played a alarming hyena, and a leonine prince.
For 14 years, back he was a angular 21-year-old, he has been crisscrossing America and Europe in “The Lion King.”
Now he’s on Broadway, accoutrement the role of Simba, which agency that he periodically gets to accomplish a arch role. He is one of 36 South Africans who accept fabricated it to the Broadway casting over the aftermost two decades; one ensemble member, Lindiwe Dlamini, has been with the appearance from the beginning.
But what lies advanced for a South African artisan who has spent his absolute developed activity on Pride Rock? Ms. Mhlongo begin fame. Ms. Soni begin hardship. Mr. Madela, who uses the appellation Mdu, is apprehensive what he’ll find.
“Already, I’m itching,” he said in June in Umlazi, the Durban-area belt area he grew up, during a two-month leave from Broadway. “What next?”
He has a dream: he wants to be a music producer. He additionally has Ananelwe, his 2-year-old babe — an American citizen, built-in of his accord with addition “Lion King” ensemble member, Nteliseng Nkhela — and he knows the child’s activity will be afflicted by area they accept to live.