Disney’s The Lion King is a Broadway institution, having been on the Great White Way since 1997. That means the show is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! Someone who’s been there for almost all of that run is the multi-talented Ray Mercer.
The Nebraska native joined the cast of The Lion King an impressive 18 years ago and he continues to grace the stage of the Minskoff Theatre, most notably as the 14-foot tall Giraffe. He’s also a fight captain and part of the extensive dance ensemble that wows audiences every night. But it’s having to manuever a Broadway stage on stilts and make it look easy that viewers are most likely to remember.
“Operating the giraffe is a negotiation,” Mercer said in a press release. “There’s three points: it’s your head, your front legs, and your back legs. You have to find your center and negotiate those three things. I think it has the most iconic visuals in the show. There’s the sunrise and you see those two giraffes—the visuals in the show are like no other.”
The Lion King has been seen by more than 100 million people since it began its Broadway run. Before joining the Broadway company, Mercer spent two years in the North American tour cast, meaning that he’s devoted a whole two decades of his career to this story. That’s an impressive run for anyone doing anything—and while working on The Lion King, he’s also found time to pursue other projects.
A director and choreographer in addition to performing, Mercer is currently the choreographer for the Ailey School’s Professional Division and resident choreographer for Philadanco. He’s choreographed a wide variety of productions, which fans can check out here. Some of his past credits include choreographing productions of Rent, Jersey Boys and Dreamgirls for theaters in Connecticut, Colorado and Nebraska respectively. He also does extensive charity work, while looking ahead to the future of The Lion King.
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