Theatre News

Tributes paid to Samuel E. Wright, star of The Lion King and Little Mermaid

Wright created Mufasa on Broadway and was the voice of Sebastian the crab

Samuel E. Wright as Mufasa
Samuel E. Wright as Mufasa
© Disney Theatricals

Actor Samuel E. Wright, who voiced Sebastian in The Little Mermaid and originated Mufasa in The Lion King on Broadway, has died aged 74.

Wright's extensive career on Broadway began in 1971, when he appeared in the ensemble of the original Jesus Christ Superstar at the Mark Hellinger Theatre.

He went on to play the leading role of Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Leading Player in Pippin, and earned his first Tony nomination for The Tap Dance Kid. His additional Broadway credits include Over Here!, Welcome to the Club, Mule Bone and The Lion King, for which he earned a second Tony nomination and which would be his last Broadway show.

Disney marked the actor's death by putting his name and photo on the billboard outside the New Amsterdam Theatre, The Lion King's original Broadway home.

He was perhaps best known for voicing the role of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, performing two of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's most-loved songs, "Under the Sea," which won an Oscar for Best Original Song, and "Kiss the Girl."

He went on to voice the role in Sebastian's Caribbean Jamboree, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, The Little Mermaid animated series, Raw Toonage, Marsupilami and Disney's House of Mouse.

Wright died on Monday at home in New York after a three-year battle with prostate cancer, his family said in a statement.