BACKSTAGE BANTER: Rob Parks, ensemble singer & Simba/Ed understudy

by Angela on August 8, 2012 · 6 comments

Michigan native and opera-trained vocalist Rob Parks has performed with The Lion King Gazelle Tour for over 2 years, singing as part of the ensemble, ambling down the aisles as the Rhino, and understudying two principal roles: Simba and Ed the Hyena. Although he’s taken the stage as the young King of the Pridelands close to 80 times in that span, he has gone on as the laughing hyena less than 10 times, having picked up the latter role about eight months ago. He’s similar to Mike in that the two roles he covers are diametrically different. I asked him some burning questions about what it’s like to be part of this amazing cast, and he enlightened me, which thankfully stopped the burning. Read on!

Q:  What’s the hardest part about being an understudy?

Rob: I’d say the hardest part is remembering to not sing the ensemble parts while playing a principal and vice versa. Sometimes, onstage as Simba, I catch myself singing the background vocals as well.

Q: What’s the most interesting or enjoyable thing about being in the ensemble?

Rob: I love the whole vibe of the bunker (the backstage area where the ensemble costumes are kept and where the performers do their changes) and the ensemble as a unit. We have fun back there, with runway shows, “Sister Mary Khona,” and my personal favorite — the Electric Slide during “Can’t Wait To Be King” on Sunday evening. I also love how much I get to interact with the audience as an ensemble member. “Circle of Life” as the Rhino is my favorite part about being in The Lion King.

Q: What’s your favorite moment in playing Simba?

Rob: My favorite part of Simba’s show is the reprise of “He Lives In You.” So much energy is gathered from the dancers and singers, lights, and music.

Q: How about the bright parts of playing Ed?

Rob: I love the moments where Banzai and Shenzi consult Ed. There are so many options completely at your disposal. I really enjoy the freedom I get with Ed, as opposed to Simba.  They are polar opposites.

Q: What are the most difficult parts of Simba’s show?

Rob: One of my most difficult parts of Simba’s show is probably the 30 seconds between stealing Rafikis stick and the high “A” at the beginning of reprise. All that jumping and running around the stage is immediately followed by a note at the very top of my range. That’s where feeding off that energy comes in handy.

Q: Is Ed’s show easier then?

Rob: Ed’s show is like high-intensity interval training! Sprinting around the stage hunched over for 15 second bursts. I commend our principals that do it every night. Hard work!

Q: How often do you get to rehearse your principal parts?

Rob: Every once in a while I’ll get a movement rehearsal for just me, but most of my rehearsals are prep for new principals coming into the show. Most recently I was both Simba and Ed in the same rehearsal for our new Scar’s scenes to get him ready for his time here.

Q: If you could do any other role in the show, which would it be and why?

Rob: Rafiki. Not only is her part crucial in the story we tell, but it’s an incredible vocal feat, night after night. And how many times have you heard people attempt to sing that opening? Imagine being the actual person. Pretty cool.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ANGELIQUE August 9, 2012 at 10:55 am



Robyn Marra August 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hi there! I just stumbled on this blog and think it’s great. I saw the Lion King last year in Durham and was blown away by the whole production. The songs are amazing. I’m sure I saw Rob the rhino (or maybe he was Simba or Ed). Anyhow, I will be excited to keep up with this blog in the future.

Robyn Marra in Chapel Hill, NC


steve m August 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm

That is cool that he knows opera. The cast seems so multi-talented. Best wishes to Rob and the rest of the performers!


De Anne Sherd August 10, 2012 at 12:12 am

Robert…you are doing a remarkable job in this venue!! Keep up the great work and let your talent ROAR!!!


Marlene Wackerlin August 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I only hope we get to see you “live” some time. Your mom keeps us up-to-date with your performances. Loved reading your blog – interesting and fun info!! Take care:) Hugs to you ~ Marlene (Suzanne’s mom)!!


Joyanna Lathrop March 17, 2014 at 9:52 am

He is so talented! I have seen this show multiple times on Broadway, So when they came to my home town I was so excited! We had the honor to see Rob perform as Simba, and of course he did an amazing job! After the show, Rob brought my two children, my mom and i back stage. It was such an amazing experience for all of us! Thank you Rob for taking time pout if your very busy life, you have no idea the impact you made on my children. My daughter sang for you on stage that night, about two years later she was performing in Annie in the same building. Thank you again! ! I wish i could upload the picture he took with all of us.


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