Last week I went to review the current cast of long-running West End musical The Lion King, which has been delighting audiences with thirteen years of Disney excellence since it opened at the Lyceum Theatre in 1999. I still affirm that it is one of the best stage musicals around, with its colourfully dazzling design and elaborately choreographed routines, all of which are tightly linked together by an African-themed influence. Some of the songs fans will obviously recognise from the original Disney animated film, while others were new creations especially for the musical production. New or old though, each number was delivered with spectacular vocal performances by the show’s cast, who possess some of the most powerfully affecting voices in the West End. I of course made mention of the ensemble in my review, but as is usually the case, the majority of the space was devoted to the principal cast and the varying aspects of the production. Members of the ensemble don’t tend to receive individual recognition in reviews, regardless of whether they’re deserving of it, but that is exactly what In Profile is for; putting the spotlight on ensemble members in West End shows and recognising their talent. I was so impressed by the cast of The Lion King when I went to see it that it was easy to decide to highlight one of the show’s ensemble members here, and that ensemble member is Enyonam Gbesemete.
Enyonam Gbesemete is a stage performer who originated from Ghana. She has enjoyed a wealth of theatrical experience, in both the West End and regional areas as well as internationally. She should feel right at home as a cast member in The Lion King too, having previously been part of the London company back in 2003.
The Lion King is not the only West End show Gbesemete has appeared in. She was in the original London cast of Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which made its West End debut at the Novello Theatre in 2007. She played the role of Trix in a cast which featured Summer Strallen, John Partridge and Elaine Paige, the latter making her return to the West End after a six-year absence. Gbesemete has also performed in other prestigious London venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, in which she was a choral member in the production of Show Boat which ran there between 13-25th June in 2006. Other London-based theatre credits include Rainbow Uprising at the Shaw Theatre and taking part in a workshop of Been So Long at the Young Vic. She was also involved in the 5th Trafalgar Square Festival in August 2006 – an event commissioned by the Mayor of London – as part of black music theatre company Nitro, which performed Mass Carib, a musical setting of the mass composed by Felix Cross.
She has also undertaken a variety of projects outside of London, such as in Dublin to perform in a production of the popular musical Rent. The show ran at the Olympia Theatre in 2000, featuring an early performance from West End leading lady Rachel Tucker as Maureen. Gbesemete also appeared in Inner City Jam at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. In addition to this, she also has extensive experience in theatrical touring shows. Gsebemete has toured the UK in productions of Smoky Joe’s Café and Passports to the Promised Land and was part of the company of Singing The Blues in its European tour. She also travelled around America in the US tour of Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame.
Aside from her theatre-based work, Gbesemete has featured on the BBC’s Radio 1 Show and worked with such music artists as Soul II Soul, Angelique Kidjo and Neil Diamond, to name a few.
Now, having returned to the London company of West End musical The Lion King, she can currently be seen performing in the show’s ensemble. She is also second cover to the principal role of Rafiki, played by Brown Lindiwe Mkhize. Her impressive vocal abilities are a joy to hear. I still remember her singing with the cast of The Lion King for the annual MADTrust event A West End Christmas at the Actor’s Church in 2011 in an awe-inspiring performance which blew the audience away. Enyonam Gbesemete is a spectacular talent who makes a wonderful addition to the show, as she does for any show she performs in.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 9th March 2013