FOR Sindisiwe Khumalo, the opportunity to perform in the Broadway musical, The Lion King, is a dream come true.

Word of Mouth Pictures, Walt Disney’s official casting agent in South Africa for the musical, recently announced the 16 singers who would be joining the respective Walt Disney companies in a number of countries this year.

Khumalo, of KwaMashu, north of Durban, was cast for a company based in London.

In an interview last week, an elated Khumalo explained that after cutting her teeth on development theatre under director Edmund Mhlongo at the Ekhaya Multi Art Centre (K-Cap), she knew theatre was her future.

“I have wanted for so long to join The Lion King. It has been a dream of mine for ages… I come from a very traditional family and my grandmother used to pray and encourage me and now it finally happened.

“I was extremely happy when I got the call to say I’ve been selected. Unfortunately, my grandmother is sick now. I tried to tell her, but she didn’t understand me… It has been a long and hard journey and I’m just very grateful. I will go and make my family proud and I will come back to help my grandmother.”

Khumalo will start rehearsals as the understudy for the character Rafiki early in April.

“I was groomed from young by Edmund Mhlongo. I didn’t know anything about the arts, but he showed me… Mama Thembi Nyandeni was also a great mentor while I worked on Umoja,” said Khumalo.

Having spent more than seven years specialising in dance at K-Cap, Khumalo then moved to Johannesburg where she specialised in music, through touring with Umoja.

“That was a wonderful journey for me because I travelled the world visiting different places like Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Paris, Dubai, Holland, Uganda, Angola and Nigeria.

“Recently, I’ve been working with director Meshack Mavuso (a former actor in Isidingo), during which time I was discovered by Baba Duma Ka Ndlovu, who gave me the opportunity to audition for The Lion King,” she explained.

After auditions in Johannesburg and Durban in October last year, the 16 were chosen and deployed to various companies in Hong Kong, Germany, London and Brazil.

A total of nine performers from KwaZulu-Natal have been cast.

In a statement, Word of Mouth Pictures said the singers would be leaving to join their respective companies abroad at various times between now and March.

They will then go through the normal rehearsal period of six weeks before taking on some of the biggest stages in the world.

The Lion King – currently the longest-running Broadway musical – has been touring for the past 15 years across the globe.

In the statement, Word of Mouth Pictures explained that since The Lion King opened on Broadway, there had been more than 300 South African singers cast in the various productions.

This is because South Africa’s Lebo M, one of the four principal composers of the score, struck a deal with Walt Disney that every production would feature South African singers.

In his statement, Disney’s casting director for South Africa, Duma Ndlovu, said: “The Lion King is the best thing to happen to the South African musical fraternity in a long time.

“I have seen young people from rural areas who have never seen a theatre before walk into our auditions, blowing us away and then going to New York, London, or Germany to join a prestigious team of performers.”