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Disney’s The Lion King roars into The Hippodrome

Walbrook High School Grad Among Cast

Ursula V. Battle | 11/17/2017, 6 a.m.
Disney’s The Lion King has roared into Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center for its long-anticipated return.
Disney’s The Lion King has roared into Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center for its long-anticipated return. The show opened for its four-week engagement on Thursday, November 16, 2017, and will run through December 10, 2017. The production is a part of the 2017/2018 CareFirst® BlueCross BlueShield Hippodrome Broadway Series. Photo: Deshaun Young as “Simba.” Courtesy Photo

Disney’s The Lion King has roared into Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center for its long-anticipated return. The show opened for its four-week engagement on Thursday, November 16, 2017, and will run through December 10, 2017. The production is a part of the 2017/2018 CareFirst® BlueCross BlueShield Hippodrome Broadway Series. Due to overwhelming demand for tickets, a special matinee performance on Wednesday, November 22 at 2:00 p.m., was added to the schedule.

In its 20th year, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, twent-four global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King is only the second show in history to generate five productions worldwide running 10 or more years.

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki”.

Courtesy Photo

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki”.

Baltimore native Keith Bennett portrays “Banzai” in the production. Bennett is a 1981 graduate of Walbrook High School.

“It’s an honor to come back home to Baltimore and be a part of the biggest show of all time,” said Bennett. “The show is in its 20th year and has traveled all over the globe. This show has really paved the way for me, and shows that despite everything, some of us have made it, and can make it. I love this city. Baltimore was good to me growing up, and to come home being a part of this show is a blessing.”

Bennett recalled his high school days, as well as relatives who “played a part” in his performing career.

“I remember some of my teachers and administrators at Walbrook High School,” said Bennett. “I remember Cheryl Pasteur, Melva Ellis, Mr. Roy Pope, Mrs. Louis Lassiter, and many others there who influenced my life. Those were the good ole days.”

He added, “My Aunt Calverta Frazier and my cousin Adrienne Johnson are responsible for my career. They took me to my first audition. They have since passed, and I really want to do a good job for them.”

According to Bennett, after graduating from Walbrook High School, he attended Morgan State University and Towson State University before moving on to New York.

“In New York, I continued to study, train, and do shows,” recalled Bennett. “Then I moved on to Los Angeles, where I continued to study, train and do shows. You really have to have acting, singing, and dancing under your belt to be successful in this business.”

Bennett’s Broadway credits also include A Chorus Line, OH, KAY!, The High Rollers, Horace, and Olympus On My Mind. Tours include: Dancin’, The Tap Dance Kid, Sophisticated Ladies, and Five Guys Named Moe. He landed the role of “Banzai” in 1988.

“I can’t express how much this show has changed my life,” said Bennett. “I have been able to buy real estate and take care of my family. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to be an entertainer, and support my family and myself at the same time. Most people don’t get to do that, but this show has provided me with that opportunity. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am thankful to God for all that He has done for me through this production.”

Bennett and his wife Deidre, who he met in Los Angeles are the parents of two daughters Tyler and Jordan.

To see Baltimore’s own Keith Bennett 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 all Ticketmaster outlets.