I was about 4 or 5 years old when I first saw “The Lion King” movie in theaters. I became immediately obsessed, as most ‘90s kids were at the time, and basically made it my entire personality. As a Broadway-obsessed adult, you’d think I would have seen the massive Broadway production at some point since the 1997 stage debut (I mean, the music is by Elton John), but it wasn’t until the previous touring company hit the stage at the Saenger a few years ago that I first witnessed the magic and fully understood why this is one of Broadways biggest hits. 

I don’t think me or my inner child was ready for what I was greeted with, but the opening 10 minutes, which includes the hit song the “Circle of Life,” left me in tears. “The Lion King” is truly one of the most beautiful productions I’ve seen thus far, and I do not give musical compliments lightly. From the songs to the costumes and the sheer talent that makes up the cast, it’s a must-see for kids of all ages. 

“The Lion King” is currently playing at The Saenger Theatre, so we took the chance to chat with New Orleanian and cast member Jennifer Theriot about the show and how it feels coming back as part of a huge Broadway touring production. 

What is it like touring with The Lion King?

Touring with The Lion King has been surreal. Performing in a show that is so well known and respected feels like I have a responsibility to really respect and bring my best to the show.

What’s your favorite part of the production? 

My favorite part of the show is “Circle of Life.” It’s the first time the cast is on stage together, and I am able to look each and every person in the eye and take them in to kind of say, “all right, let’s do this.” It’s also quite remarkable to walk through the audience during that number and see how it is affecting them. I mean people cry just from the first number and it’s a reminder of how much we are moving them.

Do you have a favorite song/dance number?

The dancers in the show are incredible. I absolutely love watching them dance every time they hit the stage. My favorite numbers are “lioness chant,” and the confrontation scene at the end of the show. I love “lioness chant” because I’m watching these fierce women do this very technical and difficult dance, and they look so graceful and together it just feels like an honor being on stage with them. And the confrontation scene is the last big dance they do after we’ve done two hours and some change of work, so I am just in awe.

The Lion King Lands in New Orleans
Jennifer Theriot

What is a typical show day like? (With extra makeup, costumes, prep, etc.)

Being that I cover three principal roles it really depends on who I am going on for when it comes to my regimen. As far as my every day normal track, I have a pretty normal day in whatever city we are in. I really like food so I try to explore different places. As soon as 3:30 p.m. rolls around, usually I am focused towards getting ready for the show. I like to eat by 4:30 p.m. and I also like to get to the theater by at least our call. Once I get to the theater, I put on my make up, I stretch and warm up and then I’m ready for the show. 

Do you have any big plans for your castmates while you’re back home? Taking them anywhere special?

I prepared a long extensive list for my cast of my favorite foods, places to go, things to do and little special spots I’ll bring whoever wants to come along with me. I check in daily to ask people what they are eating and what they feel for. I really want this to be everybody’s favorite city and I wanna make sure I’m being a good host.

How does it feel to be back home? Are you looking forward to doing anything specific while you’re here?

I usually come home pretty much after every city. Once the tour went to the West Coast, I didn’t come home and it has been at least a three month stint. I am extremely excited to be home for the food and my friends and, of course, my family. The biggest thing that I’m excited to do is eat, anything else is an added bonus. Even just walking around my favorite park, the simple pleasures that I didn’t realize I missed. I am definitely looking forward to the reunion party the company is doing for us. For our reunion to be in my city, you can’t really beat that.

Tickets for “The Lion King” at The Saenger Theatre can be purchased here.