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    Denise Hobbs of The Lion King Reveals Show’s LGBT Themes and the Role Audiences Play


    1-Tiffany Denise Hobbs

    The Lion King is back in San Francisco for a limited run, and we more than highly recommend it. If you have already seen one of the productions, we are preaching to the chorus. You know that you are in for an incredible time. If you have not yet seen this stage musical, get ready to be blown away by the stunning visuals, Elton John and Tim Rice’s music, and gutsy production that seems to know no bounds, with the cast breaking the stage-audience separation at various key points.

    One of the key characters is “Shenzi” the hyena, played by Tiffany Denise Hobbs, who in person radiates power, elegance and sizzling sexiness. (Watch this earlier clip from All That Jazz and you will see what we mean: Her character in The Lion King is obviously very different, but no less absorbing. We recently spoke with her about the role and this production of the show.


    San Francisco Bay Times: Please explain your character and what unique qualities you bring to the role.

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: I play the role of Shenzi, a menacing, yet fun, hyena and the leader of her pack. I think the word combination “crazy, beautiful” is a perfect description for me. In the role of Shenzi, I essentially get to be the dialed-up version of myself in any given moment. Shenzi’s a classy lady, yet she knows how to “wild out”—luckily, I do, too.

    San Francisco Bay Times: How did you get your start in the theater, and what drew you to this work?

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: I asked my mom to let me take acting classes at a local children’s theater company. I loved it, so I begged her to let me audition for John S. Davidson Fine Arts School a year or so later, and I got in. I had been dancing since the age of three, so I decided to supplement my dance training with drama and music in an effort to be more well-rounded (thanks to seeing the national tour of Chicago at ten years old). I took every drama class available and acted in a show every semester. It was my therapy, and I couldn’t imagine a life not on the stage from the very first moment I set foot on a stage.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are the most exciting aspects of performing in such a show? Do the audiences have any impact on your performances?

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: The most exciting part for me is truly seeing the audience’s faces during curtain call, especially the children. Though we can’t always see them during the show, we can feel the audience from the moment the music starts. They have such an impact on my show, for sure. I can feel their energy and it certainly informs my show. I love it because it keeps me actively listening and engaged during my performances.


    San Francisco Bay Times: Before your participation in this touring company, what were your primary memories of The Lion King? Did you mostly know about the book, the movie or the Broadway show?

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: I watched the movie ad nauseam as a kid—at home and in the car during road trips. I’m sure my mother was done with hearing me sing “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” all the time (I wanted to be Young Simba so badly). I also did a dance recital in which I danced to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”; a very fond memory of mine.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Do you think that this show has any themes that resonate particularly strongly for LGBTQ audiences? Is so, which themes/songs/characters?

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: Yes! There are so many. I think Simba’s journey is certainly a great one to track. He endures one of the greatest internal struggles in the show. He must leave his home and gain new knowledge and experiences in order to, essentially, find himself. Over time, he realizes that he must deal with his circumstances in order to overcome them. He does so with grace and regal essence. He returns home stronger in himself than he ever was, thanks to a little bit of acceptance and a whole lot of love.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are you most looking forward to doing while in San Francisco? Where do you like to go here?

    Tiffany Denise Hobbs: I can’t wait to explore everything from the typical tourist spots to Wine Country, the Pacific Coast, the Redwoods forests and everything in between. I fell in love with the Bay Area five years ago and I’m elated that I will be able to experience that love affair again soon.

    The Lion King runs through December 31 at SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street in San Francisco. A limited number of $40 in-person Rush tickets will be available for every performance beginning 2 hours prior to curtain at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office. (Or secure your place and buy in advance. It is a great shared event for families, especially if you’d like an ice breaker with grouchy relatives. The transformative nature of the show can work like therapy! We’ve seen some families go in coldly silent and come out crying and hugging.) For more information and to purchase tickets online, please visit: