After a hotly competitive audition process, one of the most impressive and diverse line-ups of talent ever assembled on the Australian stage has been announced for Disney’s THE LION KING. The multi-award winning Broadway musical opens at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre on December 12.

The cast features some of Australia and New Zealand’s brightest emerging talent, along with a number of seasoned performers, to make this one of the most sensational casts to appear in director Julie Taymor’s celebrated musical.

The call for talent drew 4,000 submissions with a total of 1,860 performers auditioning for the groundbreaking musical, which combines awe-inspiring puppetry and masks, ceremony and dance, and a music score of soul-stirring songs.

Executive Producer James Thane said: “In casting the show, our task from Julie Taymor was to find a diverse and exciting group of performers who uniquely reflect the cultural influences of our country and our region. After nine months of intensive searching, we’re thrilled to have found the perfect combination of singers, dancers and actors to fulfil Julie’s brief.

We’re now eagerly awaiting the start of rehearsals in October as we bring to life our own uniquely Australian version of THE LION KING.”

Announced today, the principal cast includes exciting new discovery Rob Collins in the pivotal role of Mufasa. Born and raised in Darwin, Rob has helped coordinate the National Indigenous Music Awards since its inception in 2004.

He is joined by popular television and theatre performer Josh Quong Tart as Scar, well-known theatre actor Cameron Goodall as Zazu, the charismatic New Zealand performer Jamie McGregor as Timon and the accomplished film, television and theatre actor Russell Dykstra as Pumbaa.

The much-loved role of Simba will be played by New Zealander Nick Afoa, a keen rugby player and singer who made his mark singing the national anthem at the recent Rugby World Cup in Australia.

Former backing singer for Whitney Houston and session singer Buyi Zama returns to the role of Rafiki, which she performed to great acclaim in the original Australian production and has since performed on five continents. Rounding out the principal cast are the relative newcomers, Josslynn Hlenti as Nala, Ruvarashe Ngwenya as Shenzi, Terry Yeboah as Banzai and Andre Jewson as Ed.

Joining THE LION KING ensemble will be: Bernard Angel, Caleb Bartolo, Laurence Creevey, Ed Deganos, Akina Edmonds, Jabulani Gambu, Sandile Gontsana, Mietta Gornall, Graeme Isaako, Jacqueline Ison, Sophia Laryea, Sharon Lee, Dikeldi Letebele, Nicolas Li, Loredo Malcolm, Gabisile Manana, Lee Morunga, Buti Mothamaha, Zoe Mthiyane, Lungelo Ndlovu, Matu Ngaropo, Max Oliveira, Diana Ricks, Joseph Rivera, Anica Scott-Garrell, Pamela Sidhu, Noluthando Sithole, Toni Stewart, Rebecca Tapia, Jason Te Patu, Jeffrey Trinidad, Benn Welford, Joshua Williams and Wei Wei Zhang.

The role of Young Simba will be shared by Jasper James Lloyd, Joshua Park, Adrian Pulvirenti and Ethan Puse and Young Nala by Ruby Alexander, Ayanda Dladla, Ariana Haghighi and Sabrina Sialeipata.