The Lion King’s Gerald Ramsey: Performer Received the Ultimate ‘Meal Ticket’
Ursula V. Battle | 12/1/2017, 6 a.m.
For Gerald Ramsey, the offer of a free meal to audition for Disney’s “The Lion King” was an offer he could not refuse. “I figured I would sing, and get my free lunch,” said Ramsey, who is a native of the island of Aunu’u in American Samoa, and was also raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Ramsey had received the ultimate ‘Meal Ticket.”
Nine months after his audition in Honolulu, Ramsey was offered the role of “Mufasa” in the production. The free meal had now become his ticket to fame. In its 20th year, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. The production is now playing at the Hippodrome Theater, and runs through December 10, 2017.
“At the time of my audition, I was doing luau dancing and other jobs to help ends meet,” he recalled. “After the audition, I thought I would just continue on with my life. I was shocked that I had landed the role. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have any professional acting or singing experience.”
He added, “But I was very familiar with stories being passed down through both dance and song, which helped a lot.”
Ramsey is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
“After landing the role, I doubted myself,” said Ramsey. “I was working with so many experienced people all around me in this production. However, I realized that my job is to take the opportunity that God has given me, and to go out and do my very best. I thank God for such a wonderful opportunity. It has been great.”
Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, 24 global productions of The Lion King have been seen by more than 90 million people. The Hippodrome run has been drawing sell-out after sell-out audiences since it opened there on Nov. 16, 2017.
The talented performer admits he was not familiar with the Broadway and touring success of the show, but was familiar with Disney’s animated film version. The animated version follows the adventures of the young lion “Simba”, his father, “Mufasa”, who is King of the Pride Lands, and Simba's wicked uncle, “Scar” who plots to kill Mufasa.
After the death of Mufasa, Simba is led to believe by Scar that it was his fault, and he flees the kingdom in shame. Simba returns as an adult to take back his homeland from Scar with the help of his friends. The theatrical version tells the story though dance, song, costumes, and a breathtaking set that draws standing ovations.
“I really like the story of The Lion King, because many people believe a king should walk around and let everybody know he is the king,” said Ramsey. “Sometimes that makes a king very prideful. You shouldn’t look down on anybody even though you are king. But Mufasa was very humble.”
He added, “You can learn so much from Mufasa. I am proud to be playing the role of this character, and representing the island of Aunu’u. The story reminds me of the Samoan village chiefs who serve their people as opposed to ruling over them. I am happy to be a part of The Lion King production, and want to continue to make the people of Aunu’u proud.”
To see Gerald Ramsey in The Lion King, call 866-870-2717 or visit www.BaltimoreHippodrome.com or www.Ticketmaster.com; Tickets for the show are also available at the Hippodrome Box Office (corner of Eutaw St and Baltimore St) and Ticketmaster outlets.