Lion King Bids a Fond Aloha - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lion King Bids a Fond Aloha

Geno Segers Geno Segers
Jack Lucas Jack Lucas
Rudy Roberson Rudy Roberson

By Leland Kim

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A musical that roared into Hawaii's hearts says a fond aloha. Of course, we're talking about the Lion King.

It's left a lasting impression on those who saw it. But Hawaii has also left an imprint on the hearts of its cast members.

It broke box office records and made Honolulu a musical town. The Lion King became the most successful national tour in musical history.

"To give you an idea, it's unprecedented," said Jack Lucas, president of West Coast Entertainment. "I don't know of any other show on a national tour that's ever pulled this off. In fact, I know there hasn't been one."

Fans embraced the show and its cast members.

"This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life being here," said Rudy Roberson, who plays Banzai in the show. "The performance is always an incredible experience, but the people of Hawaii are off the chart."

Geno Segers, who plays Mufasa, quickly became a local celebrity.

"For, I guess, about the first four weeks, people would always ask me, 'Are you local?' And I would say, 'No, I'm not local,'" said Segers. "But now, when they ask me that question, I have to think again and say, 'No, I'm not from Hawaii physically, but I am from Hawaii spiritually.'"

Segers first visited Honolulu a few years ago. He wanted to come back to complete a partial circle of life.

"But little did I know, I'd be coming back," he said. "By coming back, I thought I'd be completing the circle of sort -- the Honolulu circle, but I realize that by coming back, I've started a new circle because I've been so warmly accepted and the show has been so warmly accepted by the audience."

Segers got a jolt of reality while living in paradise when his bicycle was stolen. He had to buy a new bicycle. But when his original bike was found, Segers sold the new bike and decided to be generous.

"I basically took the money and donate it to the homeless because I basically found my bike in Ala Moana Park, basically a homeless guy sleeping under it," he said. "So, I thought, here's an opportunity to give back to the homeless in a way that completes the circle."

Although he is leaving now, Segers said he will definitely come back to Hawaii.

"It's just been one amazing experience after another, people inviting me into their homes, for Thanksgiving they took me in like I was their only son," he said. "I can't say enough about how warm and loving and inviting the community has been."

A fond aloha: until we meet again.

More than 180,000 people saw the Lion King at the Neal Blaisdell Center. It grossed close to $15 million, and pumped $45 million to the local economy.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the Lion King's success shows Hawaii can host a major Broadway musical.

"Certainly this has taken us a major step forward because people know now that we are capable of having such a production in Hawaii," he said.

The mayor hopes to bring other hit shows to Honolulu. Top on his list is The Jersey Boys.

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