HEAR ME ROAR!
Atlanta Native Nia Holloway Takes on Disney’s The Lion King.

By Marci Miller

Disney’s THE LION KING returns to Atlanta and will play at The Fox Theatre for the first time ever on April 10, 2014 for a limited engagement of three weeks through April 27, 2014. The North American touring productions of THE LION KING have been seen by more than 15 million theatergoers and grossed over $1 billion to date. In its 17th year, the show remains the highest-grossing Broadway show in New York history and one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.

THE LION KING won six 1998 Tony Awards and has also earned more than 70 major arts awards. The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice.

We recently had the chance to speak with Atlanta native, Nia Holloway who plays the role of Nala in the upcoming Atlanta show. Nia is the youngest Nala in the history of the production and only a few months ago was a junior at Norcross High School before she was whisked away to star in THE LION KING. Nia is now living her dream come true and shares the details of what it’s like to be a student one day and the star of a major Disney production the next.

How long have you been performing?

My parents tell me that I was singing sentences before I was saying sentences. But I’ve been singing forever. My first dance class started when I was about 8 years old and I’ve also done vocal training and acting training. I’ve also done performing at places like Philips Arena, the Apollo Theatre in Harlem three times (I was a two time winner) and I also did “Majors and Minors” which is on the HUB Network. And then I got this and it changed my life.

How did you get the role of Nala?

There was an open audition in Atlanta. But you had to be 18 years old…but we went for it anyway. And we got an audition in Atlanta and then I had a call back the very next day and then about a month after that, I got a call saying there was a final casting in New York. And about a week after that, I was on spring break. And it was extremely boring, but then it got extremely exciting once they told me I got the role of Nala.

What are you doing about school?

I’m finishing my senior year on the road right now. As we speak, I have my school work in front of me. It’s hard, but I have great counselors at my school, Norcross High School. And my principal has been such a great help. They’ve been working it out to make it a little easier on me. But with the time differences, sometimes I have to wake up two hours before school starts in Atlanta, get my work done. It’s pretty tough, but it keeps me busy. I never get bored.

We know the costumes and sets of the Lion King are very elaborate, tell us a little bit about what you need to go through for each performance:

I probably have the least difficult costume in the whole show. One person in the ensemble has about 14 costume changes and I know Scar and Mufasa have a lot of mechanics in their costumes. Motors on their hips and they have a lot going on. My costume is pretty simple. I have a leotard, pants that go over it. They have this thing on me, it’s my corset and its all hand beaded. It’s probably about ten pounds. When I first started I was totally oblivious to the fact that I had to sing and dance and wear a ten pound corset at the same time so it hit me like a train…it definitely adds to your endurance. I sweat off pounds like crazy after every performance.

What is your favorite scene to do in the show?  

I love “Shadowlands” which is my solo. I love it because the way the song progresses. It starts in a dark and hurtful place because Nala has to leave her family, and I understood that because I had to leave my family and friends and it was a total change in my life. It starts very dark and then progresses to something very powerful and strong and at the end, it takes you to a place where you feel like you can take on the world…you can do anything. So I feel like that song can relate to anybody in the audience no matter what they are going through.

How do you feel about coming back to Atlanta?

I am so excited to be back in Atlanta. First off, I’m going to be excited just to sleep in my own bed. It’s been about six months since I’ve been home for longer than a week. I miss my friends and my family so much. I love southern hospitality, so I can’t wait to be home and enjoy. And it’s like a dream come true. About five years ago, I was standing outside the Fox Theatre auditioning for American’s Got Talent, hoping for an opportunity and it brings tears to my eyes to think that I’m going to be inside there and people are going to be coming to see me. I feel that because my family and I were so determined, our vision is coming to life.

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