You can thank Tshidi Manye for giving you the very first goosebumps in The Lion King, opening Wednesday night at the Broward Center.
The South African actress-singer, whose first name is pronounced See-Dee, is Rafiki, the narrator/spiritual guide who opens the classic stage production with The Circle of Life, celebrating the birth of Simba, the lion prince.
Manye can relate — many of her family members back home in Johannesburg are so-called sangomas, or trained healers.
“I know how to transform myself into that situation just from the fact that my auntie, my cousin, my niece are all [sangomas],” she explains. Unfortunately, her relatives have yet to see the famed play, based on the 1994 Disney animated movie about a lion prince’s journey to adulthood after his father, King Mufasa, is murdered by his evil uncle Scar.
“They’re afraid to fly,” says Manye. “It’s an 18-hour flight. Too much.”
The New Jersey resident is an old pro now playing Rafiki; she’s had the role 13 years — nine years on Broadway, four years in Toronto.
What is preparation like?
“Usually, the cast, we all meditate before. We also sometimes do push-ups. That lifts us up! We feel, ‘We can do this!’ We get our energy up that way.”
Once Manye — made up in various colors and in an elaborate costume — is on stage, the energy from the audience helps, too.
“What never gets old is watching the reactions,” she says. “Even some of the older people are crying, and that motivates me. We always get excited to see the different responses. I always say, ‘If you don’t want to cry, you might as well stay home.’”
Manye is particularly excited for the Fort Lauderdale production, which runs through Feb. 1. This trip marks her first time in Florida.
“I’m going to see everything — Miami, Orlando, Key West. I’ll do it all! It’ll be a good time.”
GET SOME VISINE
So Usher is going to be OK. Even though a picture the 36-year-old entertainer posted of his eye on Instagram looked like a bloody mess. The caption: “You should see the other guy.”
Rumor had it the R&B singer was involved in a New Year’s Eve scuffle at E11even nightclub in Miami, where he had hosting duties. He attended with his fiancee, manager Grace Miguel (born Michelle Grace Harry), and someone at the strip club reportedly made a negative comment to her. But a rep for E11Eleven who was on site “all night” said there was “definitely” no fight, and since no police report was filed, maybe Usher got poked in the eye by a stray cocktail straw.
The divorced father of two, 36, has talked highly of his soon-to-be-second wife, a 40-something former Def Jam exec: “She has helped me through some of the hardest times in my life and my career,” he told Billboard in October. “Life has become a vacation.”
QUEEN FOR A DAY
Queen Latifah started off her year with some fun in the sun. The rapper/actress has some time on her hands now that her talk show was canceled. On New Year’s Day, the 44-year-old Cover Girl was pictured holding hands on the sands with her hair stylist Larry Sims. No hanky panky, though. Latifah is rumored to be in a same-sex relationship with choreographer Eboni Nichols. Latifah, who admitted recently she has babies on the brain, was later seen sipping champagne on a lounge chair.
Also spotted around the beach — separately — for the holidays were some old (ex) friends from The Real Housewives of New York City: Ramona Singer (with a bunch of non-reality peeps) and Bethenny Frankel, looking incredibly lovey dovey with beau of a year Mike Cerussi, who has family in the area. The former Bravo coworkers did not meet up for cosmos; there is no love lost between the two women. RadarOnline reports that Singer is furious that Frankel scored a $1million paycheck to return to the high-drama series.