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Theatre alums shine in Lion King, Phantom

Ben JeffreyAnnika JohanssonVisitors to New York City this summer who have attended Abilene Christian University theatre productions may spot a familiar face onstage. Ben Jeffrey (’06) has just landed the role of Pumbaa in the Tony Award-winning hit,  The Lion King, on Broadway.
While an ACU student, Jeffrey starred in Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, Seussical, Jane Eyre, Arthur: The Hunt, and The Taming of the Shrew. He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University in 2009, and will begin rehearsing for his new role in May, and take the stage in June. He recently spoke to the Abilene Reporter-News about his new role and the quality preparation he received at ACU.
Closer to home, the U.S. touring production of The Phantom of the Opera is currently in Texas at the Bass Concert Hall of the University of Texas Performing Arts Center in Austin, and features another one of ACU’s own: theatre graduate Annika Johansson (’06).
Johansson plays the role of Page/Don Juan Triumphant in Phantom, a role previously held by another ACU Theatre graduate, Juliette Miller (’06). Annika’s acting credits at ACU included three Homecoming Musicals, several dinner theatre shows and the Centennial Pops Concert with the Abilene Philharmonic.
By the way, Annika is the daughter of world-record field goal kicker Ove (’77) and April (Bankes ’77) Johansson, and was featured as a Centennial Scholar on the front cover of ACU Today’s Fall 2006 issue. She says her enthusiastic parents have already seen her perform in Phantom 10 times (four for dad and six for mom).
Ticket information for the national tour of Phantom can be found here, and The Lion King, here. Some fascinating behind-the-scenes videos on The Lion King Web site can be viewed here, including the innovative costuming actors such as Jeffrey wear during the performance.