Singer-songwriter Kristian Lei has recently landed a principal role in Hong Kong Disneyland’s spectacular Festival of the Lion King.As the first Princess Nala from Hawaii ever to be cast by Hong Kong Disneyland from Hawaii, Lei began her run this past September singing, acting and dancing as part of a talented troupe of dancers, singers, aerialists and puppeteers.
“The role landed in my lap and I believe it’s God’s will, and I’m just going to run with it. It’s a new life; it’s a new opportunity,” says Lei, who performs in a magnificent arena in the company of “bigger than life” animated puppets, massive stage floats and state-of-the-art special effects for approximately 10,000 people daily.
In June 2008, Lei was performing at Unity Church when Disney Entertainment casting consultant Marian Morrison scouted her out. Impressed by her talent, she encouraged Lei to audition for bigger roles outside the state.
“She came up to me after the service, and she goes, ‘What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. You could do Nala in the Lion King in one of our Disney spectaculars,’” Lei recalls. “After that I just sort of forgot about it.”
But a year later Lei, who also played the lead role of Kim in the German production of Miss Saigon, received a phone call from casting director Russ Jordan in Hong Kong who gladly offered her the role of Princess Nala. The role is one of four principal ones available in the show and demands high technical skill in singing, acting and movement.
“When I found out, I screamed,” Lei says with a laugh. “It was an answer to a prayer when this offer came. I was really excited and scared at the same time. I’ve always wanted to work for Disney, but I have my husband here, my family here and all my students.”
Lei appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in August 2006 as the founder of Honolulu Broadway Babies, a nonprofit organization supporting education for the educationally challenged and as a vocal coach to many students islandwide. Taking an indefinite hiatus from her responsibilities as a wife, sister, friend and teacher here at home was a challenge in itself, but Lei admits that this is an opportunity of a lifetime.
“It all came so quickly, but this experience is really going to expand my outlook on life,” she says. “Being in Hong Kong, I’m really going to try to learn the culture and learn the language, focus on myself and improving myself. That’s the most exciting thing, really - focusing on developing my skills without any distractions, gaining information to pass on to the youth and the community. That’s my whole mission in life.”
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