Forty young performers from Broadway in the Hood recently had the rare opportunity to have a meet-and-greet with Derrick Williams, who plays Mufasa in Disney’s “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay Theatre, before watching the production.
Founded to introduce theater to children and teens of all socio-economic backgrounds, Broadway in the Hood offers kids the opportunity to take free lessons in performing arts while making friends. As part of the program, children participate in productions for the community.
The Broadway in the Hood troupe anxiously awaited Williams’ arrival, wide-eyed and thrilled to meet a cast member from “The Lion King.” For many of the children in the group, “The Lion King” also would be their first experience seeing a professional production.
The young actors, singers and dancers glowed as Williams shared his experience of growing up in theater and being a part of a troupe similar to Broadway in the Hood. “We couldn’t afford dance classes, so I learned by watching,” he said. Williams also shared the realities of working in show business. While the early highlight of his career was being the first African American to play “Fiyero” in “Wicked,” regarding his role of Mufasa in “The Lion King,” Williams said he feels “so blessed and happy. I have the role of a lifetime, and I get to touch people every night with ‘The Lion King’ story.”
Hands anxiously shot into the air when Williams asked the group if they had any questions for him. Inspired by his story, the children wanted to know if he ever got nervous before auditions. He told the troupe that auditioning is still to this day the worst feeling ever; however, he gave them this advice: “Be confident in what you’re doing. That’s the main thing.”
After taking several pictures with his new Broadway in the Hood fans and friends, Williams made his way to his dressing room to begin his transformation into Mufasa. The children took their seats in the Mandalay Bay Theatre and anxiously waited for the curtain to rise and to see Williams’ talented performance as king of the jungle.