Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - TANYA MACNAUGHTON

IT is easy to see why Nick Afoa and Joss­lynn Hlenti were cho­sen to star in The Lion King when the Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion was cast two years ago – they em­body all you ex­pect from Simba and Nala.

“Even be­fore I started work­ing on the show I saw so many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween my­self and the char­ac­ter. The story has just al­ways had a pull with me,” Afoa said.

“I come from New Zealand and am of Samoan de­scent and we look up to the African style of mu­sic and that soul with our har­monies; when I heard a lot of these songs while grow­ing up they res­onated with me.”

The Lion King is Afoa’s theatre de­but, while Dur­ban-born Hlenti had An­nie and Idols South Africa on her re­sume when she at­tended the bian­nual au­di­tions for the mu­si­cal in South Africa.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to take the African ex­pe­ri­ence to the world and The Lion King is a great way of do­ing that,” Hlenti said.

“I say all the time that if you want to go to Africa, see The Lion King and you will get a taste of it.

“Mu­sic is a beau­ti­ful way of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any­body’s cul­ture and the mu­sic in this is just ex­cep­tional.”

This pure en­thu­si­asm for The Lion King has car­ried the leads through more than 600 per­for­mances, where Afoa spends an ex­tra hour in makeup get­ting his full sleeve tat­too cov­ered, although both ad­mit­ted they’d had to learn how to run the mu­si­cal marathon.

“I would say the big­gest chal­lenge is con­serv­ing my body and mak­ing sure you last the dis­tance,” Afoa said.

“I had to learn quite quickly that I just needed to calm down some­times.”

Hlenti said there was the ten­dency to want to give ev­ery­thing on stage.

“You can’t help but want to leave your heart in the au­di­ence’s hands. We’ve had to pull back a lot be­cause you just get so ex­cited, want­ing ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence what you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing,” she said.

As the show wraps up in Mel­bourne be­fore com­ing to Perth in Novem­ber for its fi­nal sea­son on tour, the pair, who have taken screen act­ing classes to­gether for the past few months, said they were un­sure what life post-The Lion King held.

How­ever, Hlenti is look­ing for­ward to go­ing home.

“I’ve been home­sick so I can’t wait to see my fam­ily and be in South Africa again,” she said.

“I need to be re­plen­ished af­ter all the spirit I’ve been giv­ing to Aus­tralian au­di­ences.”

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie­mu­ni­ d439055

Joss­lynn Hlenti plays Nala and Nick Afoa is Simba in The Lion King.

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