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“People See Themselves in That Character”: Q&A with The Lion King’s Bradley Gibson

 
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In summer 2018, Bradley Gibson took on the role of Simba in the Broadway production of The Lion King. It was the culmination of a lifelong dream that began when he started performing at the age of 6 in the small town of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Having lived in NYC for seven years, Gibson now calls himself a New Yorker and the Upper West Side home.

We recently caught up with Gibson to discuss his Broadway career, the inspiration he draws from the City and the LGBTQ+ community’s impact on the theater world.

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Courtesy. Disney Theatrical

When did you first perform in New York City? 

Bradley Gibson: The first show I did here was Shakespeare in the Park in 2013. I was in the ensemble of the musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

What is it like playing a character as iconic as Simba?

BG: Simba is so important to so many people, including myself. Playing the role feels like a big responsibility because you know that people see themselves in that character and that the story has a lot of meaning to each individual in the audience, young or old.

Bradley Gibson in "The Lion King." Photo: Deen Van Meer

How did you prepare for the role? 

BG: I made sure to find my love of the story again, as well as to really push myself to learn and take on the movements that are required to play Simba.

What’s your most embarrassing moment as a performer?

BG: I don’t know if it’s my most embarrassing moment, but anytime I drop a line or lose focus I feel a little embarrassed. But what I’ve accepted about myself is that I am simply human and far from perfect. You just have to laugh at yourself and carry on! 

What are some places in NYC that inspire you?

BG: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one for sure! I love taking the entire day to explore it. You can always find something new that catches your eye.

How would you describe your perfect day in the City?

BG: Waking up to no alarm, having a peaceful walk to a great brunch spot in my neighborhood, eating with my fiancé, heading to the gym for a workout, enjoying a few hours of downtime and ending the evening by seeing a great new piece of theater.

What impact has the LGBTQ+ community had on the theater world in NYC?

BG: The LGBTQ+ community represents acceptance and love and also supports creativity. I personally think it’s because of so many prolific LGBTQ+ individuals and allies that the City’s theater community is what it is today. 

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How can LGBTQ+ travelers support LGBTQ+ performers in the City?

BG: See shows and concerts that feature your favorite LGBTQ+ performers. No better way to support than by buying a ticket and enjoying their hard work. 

What show are you looking forward to seeing during this winter’s NYC Broadway Week?
BG: I gotta see the new West Side Story. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this revival, and who doesn’t love that score?  

Do you have any tips for people seeing a Broadway show for the first time?

BG: Try to soak it all in and really be present for the experience. When you enter a Broadway theater, you are giving yourself the chance not only to be entertained but also inspired and maybe even healed. Everyone remembers their first Broadway show.

The Lion King plays at the Minskoff Theatre; buy 2-for-1 tickets for NYC Broadway Week performances (January 21–February 9) at nycgo.com.  

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