As we count down the months to the opening of THE LION KING in Cardiff we are thrilled that Disney have given us NICK AFOA performing the role he has played for so long in Australia and London’s West End, where he’s currently doing 8 shows a week. Simba is a mighty big role and a mighty King, and Nick fills those paws superbly.

Nick Afoa (NZ Herald)

There really couldn’t be anyone better to play Simba than Nick. His personal journey is similar to the heir apparent of Pride Rock. In fact he’s had quite an expedition himself, having gone from a promising rugby career with the All Blacks to dedicating himself to a life on the stage.

It seemed Nick was destined to play rugby from a young age. He was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools (2003/2004), NZ Under 17’s (2002) as well as many Regional teams. He played club rugby for the Ponsonby RFU club in central Auckland. And by 2004 he was selected for the NZ U19 World Cup team in South Africa when the side won that tournament.

Sadly, Nick’s promising rugby career was brought to a grinding halt. Just as the black jersey was almost his, he suffered a really bad knee injury on the field. Obviously there was treatment and therapy but things would never be the same and he was forced to give up the game. As you can imagine this was devastating for a kid who had played rugby every week since the age of 13, and then, when a chance to hit the big time was just one touch away his rugby dream was over.

Nick said……….

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“It was really hard. For so many guys back home it’s all about the rugby, it’s what we all want to do, and it’s even harder if you get pretty close to it becoming a reality and then it’s gone.”

But fate is a strange thing. Like Simba in THE LION KING, Nick was a little aimless for a while, and who can blame him. I guess we’d all feel lost if our great passion is suddenly taken away from us. But this wasn’t a time for Nick to sit around and feel sorry for himself.

As well as the guy’s he worshipped on the rugby field, such as Tana Umaga, he also idolised Michael Jackson. From a young age, he sang and acted in church plays, and practised Jackson’s moves in the lounge. He landed some great roles in high school productions, was a regular in the choir, and even sang the national anthem at some major rugby games.

The biggest of those came a little later…………

In a style reminiscent of Timon and Pumbaa’s mantra Hakuna Matata, Nick let go of the rugby ball and took a firm hold on his love of music with both hands, and boy did he run with it.

Eventually that passion brought him to the role of Simba in the Australian run of THE LION KING in 2013 – and then landing him the same part in the West End version in London. Don’t for one minute think it was an easy role to get or even a shoe in for Nick. He beat 400 other hopefuls to the role of Simba in the Australian production. Then again, he was used to beating the opposition.

Talking about landing the role, Nick said……………

“I really relate to the Lion King story, to Simba being in the wilderness and finding a way back. I just happened to be online one day and saw it was coming up and there would be auditions. It felt like it was meant to be – I know in the auditions I wasn’t the best vocalist there nor the best dancer. But I was singing a song called Endless Night, it’s about Simba asking “why did you leave me” to his father Mufasa.

Dewynters Photography ©Disney

I have a son who I have never met before, who lives across the other side of the world and I don’t know what it was but when I sang that song, I put myself in his shoes. I sang it like he was singing it to me. I broke down and couldn’t carry on and I told (the auditioners) this. I ended up pouring my heart out to them.”

To read about the show, head to our full length feature, right here. LION KING SPECIAL

And here’s Nick telling his own incredible THE LION KING story.

There is something incredibly likeable about Nick. Yes, it’s his gritty determination to carry on when life throws a curve (rugby) ball his way. And of course we applaud the fact he got up and made it all happen when many would sit back and give up. But it’s when you understand that, despite his hectic schedule, he is helping and supporting others.

He studied social sciences at University and got himself a Bachelor of Arts (as you do) before helping to deliver a programme to South Auckland teens who had been affected by drugs and alcohol, using music as a therapeutic tool.

Even in London he is out helping and ‘doing his bit’ whenever he can, as you can see from the video below…….

He is currently in rehearsal with the touring cast and will appear in the production, which opened in Bristol to rave reviews, when it gets to the Wales Millennium Centre from the 9th July to 29th August. For ticket information, go here. TICKETS

We also have a special feature on the whole show, from movie to stage and some incredible facts for all you Disney lovers. And a reminder that you can read it right here. LION KING SPECIAL. It also features some great images from the show and maybe even a song or two for you to sing-a-long too.

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