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New West End casting for The Lion King announced

The show continues to wow audiences at the Lyceum Theatre

Merryl Ansah and Owen Chaponda
© Disney

New lead casting has been set for The Lion King in the West End.

The much-loved stage version of the iconic Disney musical continues its run at the Lyceum Theatre, where it first played in 1999.

Owen Chaponda (Back to the Future; The Color Purple) and Merryl Ansah (Heathers) will play the roles of Simba and Nala, returning to the show after first appearing as ensemble members.

Chaponda said: "Taking over the role of Simba in the West End is unbelievably exciting. I loved every minute of being in the show as an ensemble member so returning as such an iconic character is a real dream come true.

"Simba is a diverse character, his playfulness in contrast to his soft and vulnerable side is extremely fun to play with, he is young and full of energy but also has this huge emotional journey that he embarks on with his father Mufasa, his uncle Scar and his best friend Nala every night. He really needs Nala's help to do that growing up so taking on the role with Merryl as she grows into Nala too will really add an extra level on and off stage which I can't wait to explore."

Ansah added: "Nala is amazing! She's such a strong female character who leads with integrity and also allows herself to be vulnerable while really holding the Pridelands together. She has her own journey with the lionesses as well as with Simba and I'm excited for both those parts of the role. I cannot wait to be back in this show, and, not only that, to be stepping into the role at the same time as Owen joins makes it an even more special journey for us both. We're ready to take the Pridelands together!"

Also joining the cast will be Rhiane Drummond as Shenzi, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall as Banzai, alongside new ensemble cast members: Gibsa Bah, Shaquille Brush, Stedroy Cabey, Nikki Cheung, Kat Collings, Marlee Jay, Tomas Larraguivel, Gennaro Maffettone, Lanya Matthews, Daniel Mejia, Sipho Mlombile, Ntethelelo Nhlapo, Dillan Hope Suttle and Francesca Thompson. They will begin performances on Tuesday 9 May.

Principal performers remaining with the show include George Asprey as Scar, Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa, Gary Jordan as Zazu, Jamie McGregor as Timon, Thenjiwe Thendiva Nofemele as Rafiki, Mark Roper as Pumbaa and Mark Tatham as Ed.