When the curtains open on Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.” at Nicholson Performing Arts
Academy School 70, Raymond D. will have another item to add to his resume.
The 11-year-old fifth-grader is playing Mufasa, the king of
the jungle, in the popular musical, which runs May 24–26. It’s a role that
allows him to do two of the things he loves most: sing and act.
“I’ve been singing ever since I was 2 years old and I’ve
been acting for about a year now,” said Raymond. “I’ve been taking it serious
since I’ve been getting older.”
His goal is to “be on the big screen” like his favorite
actors Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”) and Denzel Washington, but he knows the road
to becoming a professional in the entertainment business takes work and
With the help and support of his parents, he has been
balancing school, acting classes (which he takes via Skype with his coach),
auditions and even filming a couple of commercials. His mom, Victoria, said they
recently traveled to Shelbyville, Ky., where Raymond filmed a Long John’s
Silver commercial. It’s scheduled for national release in June.
“He has auditioned for a lot of good roles,” said Victoria.
“Nickelodeon has requested for him to audition for something for them (this
Friday), and I just sent in his audition tape for the ‘Motown The Musical’
tour. They wanted him to audition as young Stevie Wonder, young Berry Gordy and
young Michael Jackson. He had to sing two of Michael Jackson’s songs, “Who’s Loving
You” and “I Want You Back.”
Raymond, who is represented by a couple agencies, believes
he did well portraying all three roles on his audition tape. “Being little
Stevie wasn’t hard because I knew that he was blind since birth. I had to wear
the glasses and move my head a lot,” he said. “For Michael Jackson, I had to
sing a lot. I love Michael Jackson; I am obsessed with his music.”
Now the family is playing what Raymond calls the “waiting
game.” They’re waiting to see if he gets any of the roles he has auditioned
for. Raymond isn’t nervous, just antsy.
“I’m kind of impatient, because I want to see what they’re
going to say,” he said.
As with any job, but especially in entertainment, rejection if
part of the profession. Yet it can be especially difficult to navigate a “no” when
dealing with children. Victoria said the family relies on their faith.
let him know that his time is coming and what’s for him is for him, and when
that door does open — even if it’s a crack — you have to push your way through
it,” she said. “He’s starting to deal with it. He knows that there’s a lot of
competition out there. But we continue to pray. We pray over every audition
tape, everything that comes his way. We just let him know that when it’s his
time, it’s his time.”
Victoria said her son is just breaking into the business and
still learning and growing in his craft. That, however, has not stopped him
from giving advice to others when he feels it’s needed.
Victoria recalls Raymond giving pointers to the adult church
choir she sings with when they were off-key. “It was a little embarrassing,” said
she. But she would expect nothing less from her son, who started humming as a
“Oh, I think the very first note I heard him sing was when
he was about 18 months,” she said.
Although it’s challenging managing her son’s budding career,
jobs and family life, Victoria said she and her husband and their entire family
are loving the journey and watching him perform. She said Raymond knows that if
he ever wants to change his career path, the family will be there to support
Raymond, however, is steadfast in his dream to become a
famous singer and actor. And while he waits on feedback from the audition tapes
he’s sent in for various roles, he’s laser-focused on the role that’s currently
right in front of him: Mufasa.
“When I auditioned for ‘The Lion King,’ I actually wanted to
be Mufasa,” said Raymond. “I picked Mufasa because all of the plays I’ve done
at this school, I was a king.”
As opening night inches closer, Raymond said he’s not
nervous (“I never get nervous”). He’s simply ready for the show and for his
family to watch him perform.
“It makes me feel great when my family is in the audience
because I have people that I know who are there to support me,” he said. “I
think it’s gonna be good.”