Celebrating Black History Month with Disney on Broadway

Celebrating Black History Month with Disney on Broadway

Whether you escape to Pride Rock or Agrabah on Broadway, you will be greeted by some incredible performers that are currently taking the stage in Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin. However, there’s more magic to these shows then meets the eye. This Black History Month, we had the opportunity to hear from three of these amazing actors and ask them about what it means to be a part of some of the most timeless stories in musical theatre.

The Lion King

This show tells such a timeless story and for 25 years has been a strong advocate for representation on Broadway. What does it mean for you to step into these roles that so many of us grew up with and transform them into something that means to you?

Pearl Khwezi (Nala): Being able to step into a role like Nala, that I grew up with, has shown me that I can be anything. I can do anything. It means so much to me that others can watch me doing it, see themselves in me, and believe that they too can do anything. That is the highest honor!

Bonita J. Hamilton (Shenzi): It is with the greatest responsibility that I step into the role of Shenzi. I do not take for granted whose shoulders I am standing on. I respectfully understand that people of color, for many years, have been treated less than, solely based on the color of their skin, which had nothing to do with their ability to be great entertainers. And as performers they were not given the dignity or respect of entering the theatre through front door or stage door but had to come through the kitchen. I am so grateful to tell this story that transports and transforms lives and provokes real conversations every night. I know that I am making my parents, grandparents and those that have come before me proud. I always say, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.”

The Lion King has an iconic message that rests in one thing: we all must take our place in the great Circle of Life. How do you apply that to performing in the show?

Pearl: This message is a powerful one, that we all have a place. We belong! This gives me the power to take up space on that stage every night, with pride.

Bonita: There is a hierarchy in the show. Mufasa is The Lion King, but he speaks about how every creature is important to the survival of the Kingdom. From the leaping antelopes to the tiniest ant on the ant hill. We all have our place, and we all have a responsibility to preserve and uphold the integrity and legacy of this show. I carry that with me every time I hit the stage.

How do you think this show has aided representation on Broadway?

Pearl: The Lion King celebrates so many different cultures throughout the show. There is a powerful quote in the show: “Remember who you are.” This is a reminder to take pride in our culture, our stories and in who we are. This way of celebrating our diversity is unique to The Lion King on Broadway.

Bonita: I think that Disney has been a leading example in the fight for diversity and inclusion. We are a South African show that shines light on the beauty and complexity of the African Diaspora. The representation of members in the BIPOC community in The Lion King is unparalleled. The show was intentionally designed that way. I think it is wonderful because after all, Representation Matters!


The Genie has become a role that has given so many Black performers an opportunity to express themselves onstage. Can you talk about what that means to you?

Korie Lee Blossey (Standby Genie, Babkak, Sultan): Seeing myself in such an iconic role on a Broadway stage means so much more than words can express. Representation Matters, and the delight in having my personality shine through the character is an opportunity I am honored to share! 

What about the role of Genie inspires you about the future of representation in theatre?

Korie: I believe if you have seen Aladdin, you know that if that large Black man can be the Genie, there isn’t anything in any show he can’t do, and that INSPIRES me! 

Agrabah is composed of a wonderfully diverse cast, what does it mean for you to step into the world of Aladdin?

Korie: It’s so warm and welcoming joining this beautiful world! There have been many times when I have walked into a company being the only person who looked like me. Agrabah is a place of all shapes, sizes, full of beautiful culture and filled with love!

How do you think this show had aided to representation on Broadway?

Korie: In my opinion, the representation in this show hopefully encourages more people to cast more diversely. And to the actors: Go to that audition, even if you think they won’t cast you. Show up and show out! It may not happen overnight, but if you work hard and stay focused, nothing can stop you! 

We are so grateful to Pearl Khwezi, Bonita J. Hamilton, and Korie Lee Blossey for taking the time to share their stories and insight with us. And of course, representing and uplifting Black voices does not stop after February! We look forward to shouting out positive representation all year round.

Photo credits: Joan Marcus, Deen Van Meer, Caitlin McNaney