Besides the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) Broadway actors that never fail to bring the audience to their feet in “Miss Saigon,” Fil-Am Broadway dancer Pia Hamilton (Gazelle Wheel, Ensemble Dancer) in “The Lion King,” together with the show’s vibrant full company, is keeping the show fresh—and the audience engaged—after all these years.
Pia, who starred in the children’s TV series “Barney and Friends” when she was nine, first joined “The Lion King,” the 1998 Tony Award recipient for Best Musical, in August 2014. “This show [her Broadway debut] has always been my dream show! After performing in ‘The Lion King’ for over three and a half years, I still feel challenged and motivated as a performer,” she told Fil-Am Whos Who in an exclusive interview.
“I really love the storyline, the dancing, and my castmates—they make going to work a joy!” she said. Prior to her stint in the “The Lion King,” Pia also appeared in the productions of “A Chorus Line” as Connie, “Aida,” and “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”
She also runs a dance studio in Chicago called Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center whose students benefit a lot from Pia’s professional experience on Broadway. “It has taught me to ‘give’ even when I feel like I have nothing left to give. After a week-long run of rehearsals and shows, when we were tired and our bodies were sore, we still give a true and authentic show at the end of the week. Our resident director once said, ‘Every show, there is someone in the audience that will see their very first show and someone that will see their very last show.’ That really stuck with me, and helps me perform my best each day.”
“I try to instill this drive and passion in my students at Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center. Anyone can learn how to dance, but how to make dance come alive is what makes an artist,” shared Pia, whose musical theater influences include Tony winners Lea Salonga, Sutton Foster, and Julie Taymor, “The Lion King’s” visionary director who blends the use of masks, puppetry, and dance to bring the giraffes, the birds, and the gazelles in Africa’s Serengeti come to life on stage every night in “The Lion King.”
“This show is timeless. It speaks to everyone in all walks of life—every race, every age, every person,” Pia said when we asked why should people come out and see their show. She said further, “We can all relate to the story, the actors make you feel the story, and you walk out of the theatre with a love for the experience of live musical theater.”
A spectacular visual feast, “The Lion King” is the stage adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated full-length feature film, which follows the story of Simba and his epic journey from a wide-eyed cub to his ascent to kinghood of the Pridelands, an expansive African grassland where most African lions live.
“The Lion King” plays eight times a week at the Minskoff Theatre (200 West 45th Street). To buy tickets, visit LionKing.com.