There is a new heir to the coveted mantle of adult Simba in the long-running production of The Lion King – the 27-year-old Bradley Gibson.
The Lion King is a Broadway classic that continues to spread its magic more than 20 years since its debut. The iconic view and sound of the sun rising across the African Savannah as melodies of “The Circle of Life” electrifying the stage are a special feeling to any stage-loving audience, and Bradley Gibson is the embodiment of this audience.
Gibson’s love for the stage began from a young age and he has continually risen through the ranks of the theatre world since he graduated from the Boston Conservatory. He has featured in plays such as Rocky and A Bronx Tale: The Musical.
“I always say Simba was my first super hero. He’s fighting the bad guys, he’s dealing with loss and trying to heal himself, but he’s also on a major journey of self-discovery,” said Gibson. For the actor, the character of Simba holds a personal significance due to his life story.
As a gay black boy raised in a Mormon family, Gibson had to circumvent all the challenges and prejudice associated with Southerners. He went through a journey of self-discovery similar to his character, Simba. Gibson credits his success to the support of his family and Julie Andrews. He describes his family as a ‘forward-thinking’ and ‘liberal’ unit that always encouraged him to follow his dreams.
“I was always supported in my dreams and aspirations and also in accepting others and being myself.” He goes on to state, “I always say that my first exposure to the theater was through movies and music in general. I remember sitting on the floor watching Julie Andrews run over the hills singing in The Sound of Music and saying, ‘Whatever that is, I should be doing it. That’s what I’m supposed to do.’”
Currently, Gibson and other stage performers have to deal with challenges from heckler and protestors. In one of his sensory-friendly stage performances for autistic children, Gibson remembers the unearthing pressure he felt. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think anything about it. When I went out into the audience it was very loud, the house lights were half as bright, the drums in the audience were lower, the lights and big claps we use for thunder and lightning weren’t happening – it was really jarring to me.
I couldn’t focus.” This underwhelming feeling soon faded away thanks to the audience’s response and hugs after the show. “I thought, what a beautiful moment for me as an artist to be able to be a part of that.”
Even though he achieved his dreams, Gibson is still burdened by the anxiety and toils of a young performer living in New York. Despite the challenges that life throws his way, Gibson has the firm support of his family to keep him going. “I’ve called home crying and wanting to not be here, but I’m always reminded: you worked so hard your entire life.
Keep doing it, and you can’t give up. Have this moment. We’re here. But you’re getting off the phone and going back to fighting.”
As Simba fights for his kingdom, we can only hope that inspirational individuals such as Bradley Gibson continue to fight the good fight.