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The Lion King stage production is “a magical experience”

Swinging for the King

“The Circle of Life,” one of Stewart’s favorite numbers.
“The Circle of Life,” one of Stewart’s favorite numbers.

When the stage production of The Lion King arrives in San Diego on August 24th, T. Shyvonne Stewart will be arriving along with it. For Stewart, a swing player in the production who also covers the characters Sarabi and Shenzi as an understudy, the arrival is also a homecoming — to the last city that she and her family lived in when she was “a Navy brat.” Her father, Capt. Richard G. Stewart Jr. Esq., was the first Black captain of the Navy Jag Corp, and finished the last of his 24 Navy years here on the Amphibious Base on Coronado before the family moved on to Dallas during Stewart’s teen years.

Past Event

The Lion King

Stewart lived in enough places as a child to attend 13 different schools, but San Diego holds some special memories for her. Here is where she joined Coronado’s Speed Spinners jump-roping team, where she first learned to play piano after her mom made a friend on a neighborhood walk, where she was able to spend time on the Amphibious Base watching the resident SEALs dive and train. Here is even where she was allowed to try on the antique copper helmets used by an older Navy generation. And when she gets here, she’ll be able to stay with a relative and eat fish tacos like she used to — and go to the beach: “I’m looking forward to the beach, absolutely. Beach baby all day.”

T. Shyvonne Stewart

Stewart talked to me over the phone from the road; she is currently in Tempe, Arizona. She says she loves traveling with the production, a group of people that includes the eight others who were cast at the same time she was, so the cohort has a special bond. She tells me about the first rehearsal that the current group completed together, remarking that their first time “being able to sit and watch the show was very emotional for many people.” It was, she says, “a magical experience,” noting that in her world, “it’s a lot of people’s dream to be in The Lion King.”

Stewart says that she has been singing and performing since she “came out of the womb”, but that for a long time, she had “a hesitancy to do it professionally. Fear, if we’re being honest.” But at a certain point in her life — after her time in college and graduate school, and after working for a number of years with college students, whom she encouraged to pursue their dreams and use their talents — she figured, “I should probably take my own advice.”

She had a turning point experience in 2016 that sealed her commitment: a musical performance at church, after which she says she had a whole church family holding her accountable. That led to her putting in her one month notice at Georgetown, where she was working as an administrator, and moving to New York City “with literally no job.”

It’s been hard but happy work, and she continues to be gratified for the chance to bring the magic of music and theater to crowds across the country.

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“The Circle of Life,” one of Stewart’s favorite numbers.
“The Circle of Life,” one of Stewart’s favorite numbers.

When the stage production of The Lion King arrives in San Diego on August 24th, T. Shyvonne Stewart will be arriving along with it. For Stewart, a swing player in the production who also covers the characters Sarabi and Shenzi as an understudy, the arrival is also a homecoming — to the last city that she and her family lived in when she was “a Navy brat.” Her father, Capt. Richard G. Stewart Jr. Esq., was the first Black captain of the Navy Jag Corp, and finished the last of his 24 Navy years here on the Amphibious Base on Coronado before the family moved on to Dallas during Stewart’s teen years.

Past Event

The Lion King

Stewart lived in enough places as a child to attend 13 different schools, but San Diego holds some special memories for her. Here is where she joined Coronado’s Speed Spinners jump-roping team, where she first learned to play piano after her mom made a friend on a neighborhood walk, where she was able to spend time on the Amphibious Base watching the resident SEALs dive and train. Here is even where she was allowed to try on the antique copper helmets used by an older Navy generation. And when she gets here, she’ll be able to stay with a relative and eat fish tacos like she used to — and go to the beach: “I’m looking forward to the beach, absolutely. Beach baby all day.”

T. Shyvonne Stewart

Stewart talked to me over the phone from the road; she is currently in Tempe, Arizona. She says she loves traveling with the production, a group of people that includes the eight others who were cast at the same time she was, so the cohort has a special bond. She tells me about the first rehearsal that the current group completed together, remarking that their first time “being able to sit and watch the show was very emotional for many people.” It was, she says, “a magical experience,” noting that in her world, “it’s a lot of people’s dream to be in The Lion King.”

Stewart says that she has been singing and performing since she “came out of the womb”, but that for a long time, she had “a hesitancy to do it professionally. Fear, if we’re being honest.” But at a certain point in her life — after her time in college and graduate school, and after working for a number of years with college students, whom she encouraged to pursue their dreams and use their talents — she figured, “I should probably take my own advice.”

She had a turning point experience in 2016 that sealed her commitment: a musical performance at church, after which she says she had a whole church family holding her accountable. That led to her putting in her one month notice at Georgetown, where she was working as an administrator, and moving to New York City “with literally no job.”

It’s been hard but happy work, and she continues to be gratified for the chance to bring the magic of music and theater to crowds across the country.

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