Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Jamaican dancer realizes dream after multiple tries

Published:Thursday | December 4, 2014 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Contributed Benton Morris (left) pose with a cast member from Disney's award-winning musical, The Lion King Broadway.
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AFTER TWO failed auditions, the third time proved to be the charm for Jamaican dancer Benton Morris, who finally realised his dream of being part of Disney's award-winning musical, The Lion King Broadway, when he was chosen to be part of the London cast.

Now in its 15th year, the internationally acclaimed musical is on its first tour of the United Kingdom at London's Lyceum Theatre, a piece of history Morris says he is happy to be part of.

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, the dancer described his involvement in the show as the opportunity of a lifetime, but also revealed that he didn't think he would have made it past the audition stages. "After two tries, I was just doing this (the third audition) for fun," he said. "I honestly didn't think I would have made it this far, because the Lion King crew looks for something different each time they come, and so I was just hoping to make it to the end of the auditions."

Though admitting that he had doubts about making it all the way, he was confident in his technique and his development as a dancer. "The first time I auditioned I was in my first year at Edna Manley (College). I was still very young and my technique needed a lot of work. The second time around I was more improved, but by the third auditions I had grown so much that those around me thought it wouldn't hurt to just try again." He listed experienced dancer Michael Holgate and Marlon King as the main persons behind his third trial.

After a tedious audition process, though he was not expecting it, Morris got the news that would open new doors for him. He recalls getting the good news under the impression it was a prank. After all, he did get the news on April 1, widely celebrated as All Fools' Day. "I remember getting the email at an odd hour in the morning, and after opening it, I thought someone was just messing with me," he recounted. "I had to read the email more than 20 times before the news sank in and details included in the email helped me to figure out that it wasn't a prank." The validation call came a few days following the receipt of the email.

Morris plays multiple roles in the Broadway production, all involving him singing and dancing, and with eight shows per week, the talented Jamaican says he's remaining focused.

"I am just thankful for the opportunity to be part of something as huge as Lion King. The production is definitely more intense than anything I've been part of before, but it's also very exciting and I'm happy." With the Christmas season fast approaching, Morris told The Gleaner that things will become even more hectic as the demand for the show grows, but says he's ready for the challenge. The musical has shows that run until the end of 2015 and Morris says that's where his focus is. "I have no plans for what's to come after the show ends, but that's a year away and I'm focused on the show for now. When the end of the production draws closer, I will know what my next career move will be."

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com