7 Questions for THE LION KING'S Mufasa
March 7th, 2015
Since FIDDLER closed, I've had the opportunity to catch up with some friends/colleagues who are living their dreams performing in Broadway's hottest shows!
L. Steven Taylor recently joined me to discuss his journey to Disney’s THE LION KING on Broadway and the National Tour! Critics hail it as “The most exciting, most inventive, most moving theater that has ever come to Broadway.” Currently Steven is starring as Mufasa in the Broadway National Tour and will return to NYC and rejoin the Broadway company in July!
I had the honor of performing with Steven in SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ at Capital Playhouse and STARDUST at Harlequin Productions both in Seattle. I am super proud to have worked with him and to be able to call him a dear friend.
ME: Can you tell me a little about your background and your career in Seattle?
STEVEN: I'm just an inner city kid from the west side of Indianapolis who accidentally fell in love with theater. I studied music and theater in High school but there were very few opportunities to work professionally there and it had become my passion, so my family and I moved to Seattle. Started work there with a great theater company- Harlequin Productions, and branched out to make a name for myself in that thriving theater community with work at 5th Avenue, Village, Intiman, 2nd Story Rep and other companies.
ME: Tell me about the first time you went on?
STEVEN: It was magical. As an understudy you generally don't know when you may be called on. Usually it is last minute, but this was a scheduled performance so not only did I get to prepare, I got to give all of my friends advance notice to come and support me in my Broadway debut as The King! Some people who were there had known that same inner city kid I spoke of earlier. I think it was as meaningful to them as it was to me.
ME: What are the advantages/disadvantages of being on tour and the advantages/disadvantages of being on Broadway?
STEVEN: If you love to travel- even if you don't, touring is a great way to see the country. When else will I ever get to live in Hawaii for 2 months doing what I love?! Never! However packing up and moving every 4 weeks or so can be daunting. There are ways to make it work though. And the people who figure that out have found something special that very few people will ever get to experience. And the way the show is received across the country is amazing to see and be a part of. Being stationary in NYC is my preference. I'm a home body. Not only that, there is a creative energy in NYC and on Broadway that is unparalleled. To be able to immerse yourself in that on a day to day basis is a feeling that I can't fully describe with words. I will say rubbing elbows with all of the costumed characters that have taken over Times Square is not my favorite thing to do...
ME: Are there any role(s) you are longing to play? If so, which one(s)?
STEVEN: The first musical that I ever saw was Les Miserables. I was 13. It changed my life. I listened to the score I would imagine everyday for at least 3 years. No lie. Obsessed. From then on, I have always wanted to play the role of Javert. So whoever is reading this: CAST ME!
ME: What advice can you give to an aspiring young artist?
STEVEN: Be hungry! Eat up everything you can. Dance classes. Voice lessons. Acting classes. Tumbling foreign language. JUGGLING! The business is so weird. I auditioned for a play one time- no singing, no dancing and it came down to 3 other guys who looked exactly like me. the director was also casting a film and asked if any of us tumbled. I was the only one who raised my hand. He asked me to show him. I booked the play and the film in that one audition! Whoever has the more tools in their toy box to play with will usually get to have the most fun!! And at the end of the day, that's why we do this- not only because we need to but because we love to. The minute you stop loving it, It's time to move on.
ME: Congratulations on your contract with THE LION KING! How long have you been with the show and what is it like playing Mufasa?
STEVEN: THANK YOU!! I'm beyond stoked to be taking over the role of Mufasa on The Great White Way! It has been a long journey that started in NYC 9 years ago as a temporary replacement in the ensemble- till now. One of the great things about being blessed to be a part of such a long running show like The Lion King is that you get to evolve as the show does with time. My take on Mufasa has definitely evolved as my personal life experiences have- with deeper knowledge of what it means to be a father, experiencing loss, admitting fear... It all plays well into who that character is and I'm very lucky to be able to draw upon simple parallels in my own life to carve out a more rich portrayal of this iconic character.
ME: Tell me about the audition process. How? When? Where? What did you sing?
STEVEN: PHEW!... I auditioned over the course of 2 years probably 6-7 times-callbacks included. The first time I auditioned was in Bloomington, Indiana at IU. I was sick and auditioned well with my song, but when it came time for them to vocalize me I had maybe half of my range simply disappear! I auditioned the second time in Seattle and the man running the audition actually remembered me. They wanted a pop or gospel song so I sang a rendition of Mary Did You Know and booked several callbacks till I finally got the job! After getting cast in the show I learned that my experience was actually a fairly typical one. Goes to show there's some truth in that old saying: if at first you don't succeed...