MANILA - Even sans the costumes, grand props, and spectacular lighting, the stage version of "The Lion King" already impresses with just the vocals of the cast and chemistry of its two leads.
In the Philippines, those two characters -- Simba and Nala -- will be played by Calvyn Grandling and Noxolo Dlamini, respectively. The Manila show of "The Lion King," to be held at The Theatre at Solaire starting March 18, won't be the first time both stage performers are taking on the well-loved Disney characters.
Grandling, who hails from Western Cape, South Africa, has performed in several runs of the musical since 2007, its 10th anniversary, and eventually transitioned from being part of the ensemble to the titular role. The Johannesburg-born Dlamani, meanwhile, made her debut in "The Lion King" via its London run in 2015.
However, the production's international tour, which kicks off in Manila, will be the first time the two will share the stage. "We had never actually met," Dlamini told ABS-CBN News Thursday on the sidelines of the troupe's rehearsals at Star Theater in Pasay.
"When the cast list was out, I realized he would be my Simba. I remember that the first time I saw him was in London. I was coming into the company, he was leaving the company. So we never really spoke. We never stood on the same stage together," she said.
Asked how they developed chemistry on stage, Grandling explained that aside from weeks of rehearsals, it also pays to have a good personal relationship with his co-actor.
"We spend some time, walk together, get to know each other," he said. "It's been fantastic getting to know her, getting a feel of what she's like, where she's from, where I'm from, and putting the two of us together."
The result of this was evident when the pair performed -- without costumes or stage effects -- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" during the open rehearsals on Thursday with select members of the press in the audience. The love song, composed by Elton John and penned by Tim Rice, marks a pivotal moment in the original 1994 animated film, as Simba and Nala's friendship turns into romance.
Nearly two decades since the so-called Disney Renaissance, of which the Oscar-winning film was part, "The Lion King" brand has only endured in popularity. That's thanks primarily to the musical, which is billed as the number one stage production in the world, with 90-plus million international audiences and over $8 billion in gross revenue since its 1997 Broadway opening. Unsurprisingly, the demand has paved the way for yet another "The Lion King" adaptation, this time a live-action remake to star Donald Glover and Beyoncé.
The magnitude of their roles are not lost on Grandling and Dlamini.
"It really is an honor to be a part of something so big, and to be able show it to people who never seen 'The Lion King' before on stage," Dlamini said. "I feel like I'm the chosen one to be able show so many people this special, special project."
Referring to this writer's question mentioning the millions-strong audience of "The Lion King" around the world, Grandling added: "When you said it right now, my lips were shaking. It's surreal to be able to take this product and share it with everybody. We are ready, we are super excited, we're strong."
"The Lion King" is slated for a three-week run until May 6 at The Theatre at Solaire in Entertainment City, Parañaque. Tickets are available via the Ticket World website.