Singer/actress Kayla Cyphers shown at far left. Photo by Deen van Meer

By Janice Malone

NASHVILLE, TN — Returning to Nashville after an eight-year hiatus, the long-awaited return engagement of Disney’s The Lion King is roaring back to Nashville for three weeks Jan. 6-23 at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall.

The North American touring productions of The Lion King have been seen by more than 20 million theatergoers. Having already played in more than 90 cities across North America, The Lion King is now approaching 24 landmark years on Broadway. But age is nothing but a number, as this show continues to be one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.

Since its premiere on Nov. 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by nearly 110 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years, with four of those running 20 or more years.  Performed over its lifetime in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese), by the end of 2021, there will be 10 productions of The Lion King around the world, including Broadway, London, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo, Madrid, on tour across North America, Japan, and the U.K. & Ireland, with a separate production touring internationally. Having played over 100 cities in 21 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show, or other entertainment titles in box office history.      

Singer/actress Kayla Cyphers is one of the key cast members of The Lion King touring show. She stars as the character ‘NALA,’ the playful, spirited, and spunky little cub who is best friends with the ‘Simba’ character. The Southern California native says she’s so excited to be a part of The Lion King show. “It’s an amazing experience. We have so many people traveling with us, just always around each other. It’s like a big traveling family,” says Kayla during a recent phone interview, while the show was in Memphis. Kayla’s been with the touring show since September 2019. During the big lockdown last year, many people hit the reset button for their lives. Some wrote books, others planted gardens, but Kayla got married. “Yes, I got married! It’s been amazing. Since we were in lockdown, I had time to plan the whole wedding. And it allowed my husband and me a chance to spend a lot of quality time together in New York City. He’s also an actor. Before we got married, we haven’t had a chance to spend enough time together, but it’s been a great union for us.”

Kayla is certainly no stranger to musical theater. She attained her BFA from AMDA LA and has previously appeared in Bat Out of Hell, The North American Tour/New York Engagement (Ensemble, Raven U/S), and Aida at John W. Engeman Theater. 

Kayla says she saw The Lion King for the first time as a little girl. But surprisingly, she was immediately drawn to the character ‘Rafiki.’  She recalls, “So when I first saw the show as a young girl, I was like, ‘I want to be Rafiki!’ I just loved every song the character sings. It was so funny because I never saw myself as Nala until the opportunity came to audition for the role.  I was like – ‘Oh, I guess I am more like, Nala after all,’ says Kayla with a laugh. 

As everyone knows, The Lion King is such a special and magical production. The beauty, the pageantry, the music, the storyline, blended all together, it’s a show that continues to stand the test of time with audiences around the world. The production is packed with original music and songs that have now become a part of everyday American pop culture. “For me, the magic of the show never gets old. There are times during rehearsal when they’re singing the Circle of Life song, it’s still just jaw-dropping for me. It’s just the most beautiful thing ever,” she shares.

Kayla says that she’s really looking forward to experiencing Nashville when the show rolls into town. She further adds, “I’m a foodie. So, I’m excited about the awesome food because I’ve heard amazing things about it. I also know that it’s the city of music, which is perfect for all of us in the cast because we are entertainers who love experiencing music outside of the show. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for us to see other local performances on our days off or go to visit museums, local musical theater, and things like that. I just can’t wait. Nashville here we come!”