The Broadway smash "The Lion King" made a return to the Belk Theatre this week and with it a native Charlottean in a major role.
Thirteen-year-old Ramon Reed stars in the role of Young Simba in the production. Reed has performed in numerous local productions since he was five, and grew up singing in his church’s choir. He spent the past year with The Lion King’s touring production as Young Simba. In June, he landed that same role on Broadway. He asked to leave New York to perform in his hometown and will return to Broadway when the show ends here on Sept. 9. WFAE's Gwendolyn Glenn spoke to him about performing as Young Simba.
“He's crazy…He just does things that boys do and that's just the fun of playing him because Simba’s kind of like me - crazy and having fun,” says Reed.
Here are the highlights of the interview:
GWENDOLYN GLENN: How did you feel the first time you performed on Broadway?
RAMON REED: Oh man, it was crazy. It was amazing. I was just like, “People dream of this and I'm actually doing it at this young of an age.” So it was really cool.
GLENN: Did it change how you look at “The Lion King” now that you’re a part of one of the biggest productions around?
REED: Definitely. When you step into that role of Young Simba or any role that you play, you'll look at the show different because you interpret what your character does and what your character says a different way. Then once you get an understanding of your character, that brings out a whole other chapter to “The Lion King” and what the real meaning of it and what the real story is.
GLENN: What do you take away from “The Lion King” because it has many lessons for young children and adults?
REED: Simba gets lost and in denial after his dad dies. So what I take away from it is…the main song reminds Simba of who he is. [His father] lives in you. So no matter who has left you or who you love has gone on, they’re still here with you. They’re still with you.
GLENN: Did it mean a lot to you to come back to your hometown to perform?
REED: It means so much to me. Just to be gone for a year and a month and then come back to all your loving family. So thousands of people who I can connect with because I live where they live and just feel that love from them.
GLENN: Was it hard to learn all those dance moves and songs – and at times you have to be on these large props?
REED: It was pretty difficult because of the long nights and the long rehearsals, the exhaustion that you have after rehearsing and after the show, but it's so fun because that's what you love to do.
GLENN: I understand you have an illness sometimes that makes you a little tired.
REED: I have sickle cell anemia disease. It’s a blood disorder where your red blood cells turn into a sickle and it blocks the blood from getting where it needs to go and it can cause extreme pain. But it really only happens when I go through a very wild temperature change because my body can't handle temperature changes.
GLENN: What about school? You went to J.M. Alexander Middle School. Do you miss it?
REED: I do miss it a little bit. Just seeing my friends every day and just having that fun and learning with a group of kids, even though there's three other kids on the show. But we have a tutor. So she teaches us while we're on the road and while we're doing school.
GLENN: Where do you see yourself going eventually with this?
REED: Definitely, TV and film and TV shows and movies and things like that. That's what I really want to do.