Performing Arts

It’s their own circle of life. How moms and kids survive touring in Disney’s ‘Lion King’

Buyi Zama as Rafiki in “The Lion King.”
Buyi Zama as Rafiki in “The Lion King.” Courtesy of Disney

Raising kids can be hard work. But touring with them takes it to another level.

Disney’s “The Lion King” tour puts parenthood to the test in the circle of life. Several cast and crew members are traveling with their family members, some of whom appear in the theater production.

Buyi Zama, who plays Rafiki in “The Lion King” national tour, travels with her husband and nearly 1-year-old daughter, Buhlakani.

Paris Smith tours with her 9-year-old daughter, Celina, who alternates the role of Young Nala with Brilyn Johnston.

But there’s no doubt these mothers love their cubs.

“The Lion King” returns to the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami just in time for Mother’s Day for a 2 1/2-week run. It opened on Wednesday, May 8.

We spoke to the two touring moms and a touring kid about what it takes to survive and thrive on the road.

First up: Buyi Zama.

Q: What is your daily routine like being on tour with your husband and daughter?

A: We still haven’t mastered sleep training, so most days start when she wakes up from 7 a.m. to 10:30. We co-sleep, which is frowned upon these days, but it’s what works for us. So I stay in bed with her while my husband, Matthew, wakes up to exercise. Then we all have breakfast together. We keep things simple and and eat what baby can also eat: oatmeal, fruit, boiled eggs. Midday is when I go to the gym. And since we are now in sunny Florida, Matthew and Buhlakani go for a nice stroll to the park or just outside for fresh air. I then grab a quick shower before she wakes up to be fed. She then takes a short nap, and that’s when we get a chance to just talk about us, and things we want to improve in this touring with baby life We have lunch, and then I get ready to go to the show. While at work, I pump in between scenes, and at intermission. I always pump milk for the following day. I get home at about 11 p.m. to a very playful baby.

6.Nia Holloway (Nala) ©Disney.  Photo by Deen van Meer.jpg
Buyi Zama as Rafiki, right. Deen van Meer Courtesy of Disney

Q: What is the most difficult part about touring with your baby?

A: Finding a pediatrician willing to see us. They seem to not understand that we are just passing through. We carry all her medical records with us, which makes it easier.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do together as a family on tour stops?

A: We find a local landmark and all three of us take a photo next to it. It’s for the baby book.

Q: What do your husband and daughter do on show nights?

A: Baby Kani takes a nap around 7 p.m. and hubby tries to nap with her. They do laundry together, and by that I mean while he is folding, she is unfolding.

Q: What advice do you have for other moms in the entertainment industry?

A: Plan ahead, do what works for you, get to know your own baby and not compare her to the babies they write about in those books. My baby has never slept for 12 hours and she wakes up to feed at least twice per night, even now at 11 months. She’ll be a year old by Mother’s Day. They grow up fast.

Now, Paris and Celina Smith

Q: What is your daily routine together like on tour?

A: Paris: They’re off on Mondays, so we usually do something together. Celina:Yesterday we went snorkeling and it was really fun. We got to see all of the fish in the sea, and me and my mommy got to spend a lot of time together. We went with the other Young Nala. Paris: Typically on Mondays we try to do things like that. Especially in Florida. We’ve gone to Hollywood Studios. We’ve been everywhere except for Universal, which she’s upset about, but you can’t win ‘em all.

Q: Paris, what do you on nights that Celina is playing Young Nala?

A: It’s funny because you come out here with all these bucket list with things that you think you’re going to do, like “I’m going to write the next great American novel.” But it seems to be stuff more like laundry.

Q: What has been your favorite tour stop together?

A: Paris: I’m actually really loving Florida because we get to do things like snorkeling. And when we get to Miami, Celina’s birthday is ... she’s actually a Mother’s Day baby. So one of the things we’re going to do when we get to Miami is swimming with the dolphins.

Q: Celina, how do you balance rehearsals and shows, but also schoolwork and just being a kid?

A: Sometimes it can be overwhelming and hard because I have to do school and shows. I usually do school four hours a day. It can be fun with all my cast mates there with me doing school. And my teacher. Her name is Ms. Lisa. She just helps us learn and be the best us we can be.

Q: Paris, what is the most difficult thing you’ve had to give up to go on tour with Celina?

A: My job. It was kind of a whirlwind, so we had to make decisions really quickly..

Q: What’s it like having a working daughter?

A: Paris: A little strange sometimes, but it’s really a blessing because one of the things as a parent that you want to see is your children fulfilling their dreams. This is something that she’s always wanted to do. I have an older daughter who performed, and I kind of thought I was done because there’s a 14-year difference between the two of them. She’s grown, so I thought I was done with the taking to auditions, but Celina latched onto it right away. She told us at 3 that this is what she wanted to do.

Q: Celina, what is your favorite part about having your mom on tour with you?

A: She pays for everything.


What: “The Lion King”

Where: Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

When: Wednesday, May 8 through Sunday, May 26

Tickets: $25-$135,