‘The Lion King’ Celebrates 1,000 Performances with 1,000 Free Tickets For Walter V. Long Students

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Niles Rivers as Simba, fifth grader Daniel Hernandez and teacher Danielle Rayos.

In honor of its upcoming 1,000th performance, Disney’s “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay awarded Walter V. Long Elementary School 1,000 tickets at a surprise in-school assembly Tuesday with a heartwarming performance by cast members. Students from more than 80 Clark County elementary schools submitted essays on why their school deserves to see “The Lion King” before the show’s final performance on Dec. 30, and the winning essay came from Walter V. Long’s Daniel Hernandez in Danielle Rayos’ fifth grade class.

Principal Dr. Joyce Brooks welcomed the students to the assembly and introduced cast members Aaron De Jesus (“Timon”), Adam Kozlowski (“Pumbaa”), Tim Johnson Jr. and Zaire Adams (Young Simba) and Lauryn Hardy and Nia Harris (Young Nala) to teach the students the beloved “Lion King” song “Hakuna Matata.” Hundreds of ecstatic children clapped and sang along in unison to the song led by the cast members.

Just as the “Hakuna Matata” came to close, Niles Rivers (“Simba”) burst onto the stage in full makeup and costume and began singing along as the students squealed and giggled with delight at the sight of the character. Rivers took the microphone and said, “I have some really exciting news for you. Every student and every teacher at Walter Long is going to Mandalay Bay to see ‘The Lion King!’” The students erupted in cheers, screaming and even letting out some very happy tears! Rivers led the crowd in an appropriate “ROOOAAAARRR!”

The room calmed down only for a moment before the winning student’s essay was announced. Rivers slowly spoke, “There is one reason you all are going to Mandalay Bay to see ‘The Lion King.’ It’s because of one essay written by one student at Walter Long Elementary.” The students anxiously sat up anticipating whose name Rivers would call. “His name is Daniel Hernandez,” shouted Rivers as the students burst into cheers once again. Hernandez ran to the front of the stage giving high-fives to everyone he passed. The fifth grader joyfully told his peers that he worked really hard on his essay and thanked his teachers for their support.

“Congratulations to Walter Long Elementary. We’ll see you at the show!” Rivers told the students as the piano picked back up and the cast members exited the stage singing. Brooks ended the assembly by telling the children that today was an example of never giving up and working hard toward a goal.

“The Lion King” celebrates its 1,000th performance on Thursday, Nov. 3, and will end its run in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 30.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

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