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10:37 AM / Wednesday June 12, 2024

18 Aug 2023

VIDEO: Local talent, Jeremy Noel, in the North American tour of Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ through Sep. 10 at Kimmel Cultural Campus

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August 18, 2023 Category: Entertainment, SUN Spotlight Posted by:

SUN Spotlight interview with actor Jeremy Noel

ABOVE PHOTO: Jeremy Noel  (Sub/Urban Photography)

By Kharisma McIlwaine

In 1994, Disney released the animated film “The Lion King” which became an instant classic. The unforgettable characters and incredible soundtrack continue to capture hearts and usher in new fans almost 30 years later. 

The musical adaptation of “The Lion King” premiered on Broadway on November 13, 1997. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, the six-time Tony and Grammy Award winning musical is the 3rd longest-running show in Broadway history. 

Tri-state area theater goers have been eagerly awaiting its return. 

Now the wait is officially over, and the North American tour of “The Lion King” returning to Philadelphia for a four-week engagement on The Kimmel Cultural Campus. Jeremy Noel, born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, stars in the North American tour as an ensemble cast member and the understudy for Simba. Noel spoke with the SUN about his gratitude and joy for being a part of this legendary show and cast.

Inspired by his older brother, Noel found his love for musical theater as an audience member at his very first musical production.

“My first production of a musical I ever saw was a high school production of Peter Pan,” Noel said. “My brother was in it. The feeling that I felt when I was in that audience… I said I want to make other people feel the way I just felt. Ever since, I’ve been going through my journey getting to “The Lion King”.”

After his brother’s performance, Noel quickly made the transition from band to a pursuit of musical theater.

“I was a band kid before musical theater — piano, drums, percussion and the violin,” he said. “It was kind of a crazy switch over… I didn’t even sing before. But then, I said I kind of have to pick one if I’m going to do it. So, I switched my full focus over to singing. Acting came with the shows that I performed in and then dancing kind of came in with that too.” 

Noel went on to attend and graduate from Ithaca College. While attending Ithaca, he got the call for the life changing audition. 

Company of “The Lion King” on Broadway (Photo by Matthew Murphy-Disney)

“I was in Ithaca when I got “The Lion King” audition,” he said. “I was traveling back home, going to the city. I went from Ithaca and auditioned in New York and never moved out because I went right on the road. It was crazy! When I say I was a Disney kid, I would walk around the house being Simba. When I got to high school, we were doing Career Day and I said, ‘What is the show that I would love to be in?’ I said, ‘Lion King. Being able to play Simba, I would love to do that. Seven or eight years later, now I’m actually doing that!”

Noel’s experience touring in his first professional show has been nothing short of amazing. 

“Because it’s the touring company, I’m tackling being in my first professional show while also traveling,” he said. “I’ve lived in a few different places so I kind of have two different experiences melted into one. Honestly, it’s great! I never thought I would see so many states in two years. I’ve been to 12 states I’ve never been to in my life and I get to perform “The Lion King!” 

Performing with the show’s cast , not only gave Noel an opportunity to travel, but it also gifted him the opportunity to expand and grow as a performer. 

“Sometimes when you get in a room, the ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I’m supposed to be here’ thing kicks in,” he said. “Then once you’re actually doing the work, you gain so much confidence and you’re, like, of course this is why I’m here. That comfortability — I’m very grateful for. I feel like that’s also where I’ve just grown. I keep getting comfortable and I get to try new things. When I get to go on as Simba, I can really be in “The Lion King” as this character. The journey has been great so far!”

Taking on the mantle of an ensemble cast member and the understudy for Simba has been an absolute dream come true for Noel. 

 “It’s been exhilarating… I love doing my track! I get to go down the aisle as the elephant, and it’s actually one of my favorite parts of the show,” Noel said. “I can see all the faces of everyone in the audience as the elephant comes down the aisle. The feeling that I get from seeing joy on people’s faces is absolutely priceless!”

“Getting to be an actual character within “The Lion King” and having it be Simba is amazing,” Noel added. “I’m telling you, I walked around the house getting my shoulders ready, and really getting into who Simba could be. So, when I actually do it, I feel so comfortable now and still exhilarating and exciting. I mean “Lion King” is a spectacle and every time I do it, I feel something different, but it’s all pure joy.”

“The Lion King” musical is known for its dynamic score featuring songs by Elton John and Tim Rice from the original animated film. The songs still provide a heartwarming experience for the audience and cast alike.  

 “When I heard the very first chorus of “Circle of Life” during my first performance — I will never forget that feeling,” Noel said. “The Circle of Life” is one of the most iconic songs, so just being in that and looking around at everyone else on the stage — it’s joy and excitement. The flashbacks of watching “The Lion King” as a kid… everything melted together in that one moment and I can never recreate that.”

Noel also spoke about his love for a song in the show called “The Lioness Hunt.”

“During the song the lionesses are doing a dance for hunting and the guys sing with the women. Every single night that I sing that song, I feel this strong, powerful energy and everyone around singing with us just feels so empowering. I also love the vocal arrangement of that song.”

In a true full circle moment, Noel returns to his second home, Philadelphia, to perform for the very first time in “The Lion King.”

“I did the first vocal jazz camp at The Kimmel Center ,and I never thought that I would be back this soon performing anything, but especially “The Lion King.” My church, New Covenant Church of Philadelphia, there’s 140 people coming to see me,” he said. “The support and excitement I feel is unmatched!”

To support Jeremy Noel on his journey, be sure to follow him on IG @jeremynoel13 and visit his website at: www.jeremyjanoel.com. Disney’s “The Lion King” will be at The Academy of Music on The Kimmel Cultural Campus August 16 through September 10. Visit: www.kimmelculturalcampus.org for more details on tickets and showtimes.

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