A Hawaii lad from Kaneohe, Ezekiel Ko‘iaweawe Gamiao Kekuna, is one of four minor actors who will join the cast of the  phenomenal Tony Award-winning  Disney musical, “The Lion King,” beginning Dec. 5.

Zeke, who is a sixth grader at Kapunahala Elementary School, will portray Young Simba, sharing the role with Albert Rhodes Jr., with two girls, Annika Franklin and Nia Thompson, double-cast as Young Nala.

All the youths are making their debut on the Great White Way.

Zeke, pictured, who has been in rehearsals in New York for the past month, is no stranger to the stage. He has been a part of the I’m a Bright Kid (Foundation) Summer Program every year since 2018 and has an enviable list of credits, including Diamond Head Theatre’s “The Bodyguard” and in IABK’s “This is Me” at Paliku Theatre. He also has performed with Marcelo Pacleb’s 24-VII Danceforce group.

But musicals are in Zeke’s family DNA, since brother Ezra Kekuna, and sister Azaliah Kekuna also sing, act and dance, following in the footsteps of their mother, Sarahlea Gamiao Kekuna whose mentor was the late Ron Bright, at Castle High School and Paliku. Mom Sarahlea is accompanying Zeke on this journey, so dad Kawaiolu “Billy” Kekuna is home, holding down the fort.

In the past, Hawaii minors – now adult actors – have performed on the Broadway stage. “Les Miserables,” another hot ticket, has featured Jason Tam as Gavroche, Ryan Rumbaugh as Gavroche, and Janel Parrish as Young Cosette. This year, Milo Maharlika is touring in “Les Miz,” portraying Gavroche, but his is not a Broadway gig.

Zeke is earning his union card, with this engagement, and he’s truly lucky: “The Lion King” is Broadway’s hottest ticket now, with a gross of $1,944,894 for the week ending Nov. 19. (See chart below).

Customarily, Broadway companies offer six-month contracts to youth actors, since they shoot up – get tall – pretty quickly and there is a height restrictions for certain roles.

Zeke is of Filipino, Hawaiian, African-American, Native-American, Irish and English descent – a walking United Nation – and with his joy and potential, who knows? He could play Simba, the father lion, or Scar, the nasty uncle, when he’s older, in the next chapter of his career.

“He’s a wonderful performer and a great kid,” said a proud Allan Lau, president of the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, about Zeke’s Broadway opportunity. Lau oversees the company’s summer program, where the seed was sowed in Zeke’s journey to the stage, almost as if Mr. B scripted this achievement. It’s a feather in the Bright franchise….

More good news for IABK

It’s been nothing but good news for IABK, which received a $25,000 donation from the Honolulu Cookie Company, which is commemorate its 25th anniversary, with grants to three local non-profits. IABK is one, along with the Malama Aina Foundation and Kupu.
“Honolulu Cookie Company has supported our summer program since its inception in 2017,” said IABK. “A heartfelt mahalo to Ryan Sung, President of Honolulu Cookie Company; Keith and Janet Sung, Executive Vice Presidents; and Kathy Arasaki, Senior Vice President. We are so grateful for your support.” …

“The Lion King” drawing nearly $2 million

Zeke is joining the Disney musical at a great time; for the week ending Nov. 19 (newer figures are due this week). The show is just a whisker away from the $2 million mark.

See the grosses, courtesy The Broadway Group:

And that’s Show Biz. …

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