Actor Gugwana Dlamini portrays Rafiki in “The Lion King” North American Tour Disney at the Kennedy Center. (Courtesy of Joan-Marcus)
Actor Gugwana Dlamini portrays Rafiki in “The Lion King” North American Tour Disney at the Kennedy Center. (Courtesy of Joan-Marcus)

It’s been nearly 10 years since “The Lion King” was in the D.C. area, and new and repeat audience members anticipate an exciting theatrical experience. The winner of six Tony Awards, this musical is known for its colorful scenery and oversized images of animals. Memorable music that adds perfectly to the storyline was composed by Elton John with lyrics from Tim Rice. This is the 21st year of the American national touring company for this Broadway hit and local audiences can head to the Kennedy Center from June 22 – July 29, to tap into the magic of “The Lion King” musical.

Samaree Lawson from Clinton, Maryland, is in “The Lion King” North American Tour Disney at the Kennedy Center. (Courtesy photo/ Samaree Lawson) 

Local actor and dancer Samaree Lawson is a member of the ensemble in the role of the Birman Soloist. The Clinton, Maryland native graduated from the Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He still lives in Prince Georges’s County and travels wherever the tour takes him. At age 15, he began his dance training at the Dance Institute of Washington. Lawson also trained at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Kansas City Ballet, and the Ailey School.

This is Lawson’s debut in a Broadway production. He opened with the national touring company in early February when his mother, two grandmothers and a cousin saw him in the Los Angeles production. With the upcoming performance at the Kennedy Center, a group of 161 family and friends will attend “The Lion King,” most of whom have never seen Lawson dance.

“It’s going to be an overwhelming experience filled with so much gratitude,” Lawson said. “I have a special part in the show where they can see me.”

“The Lion King” has been on Broadway for 25 years. During this lengthy run, the musical has accumulated amazing statistics. It is the third longest-running Broadway show. More than 110 million people have seen the production, and the musical has received 70 major theater awards internationally.

There will be audience members at the Kennedy Center who have seen the movie version of “The Lion King,” but it will be their first time seeing the stage production.

“There may be some parts that kids may not understand, but then you see masks and puppets. It will feel big with colors and music at a high level,” Lawson said enthusiastically. “Some of the choreography has a move called ‘kick butt.’ The stage performance also shows the power of women. You will absolutely love it.”

Lawson is a convincing marketing expert for “The Lion King,” and emphasized there will be enough happening on stage to keep audiences engaged. 

A trailer for the Kennedy Center production is on YouTube. For ticket information, visit the Kennedy Center website at

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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