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Samuel E. Wright, Sebastian in The Little Mermaid and Mufasa Onstage in The Lion King, Dies at 74

Wright was a two-time Tony nominee.

Samuel E. Wright as Mufasa in The Lion King
(© Joan Marcus)

Samuel E. Wright, the voice of Sebastian in Disney's The Little Mermaid and the originator of Mufasa on Broadway in The Lion King, died May 24 at the age of 74, after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.

Wright's extensive career on Broadway began in 1971, when he appeared in the ensemble of the original Jesus Christ Superstar at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. He went on to play the leading role of Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Leading Player in Pippin, and earned his first Tony nomination for The Tap Dance Kid. His additional Broadway credits include Over Here!, Welcome to the Club, Mule Bone, and The Lion King, for which he earned a second Tony nomination and which would be his last Broadway show.

He was perhaps best known for voicing the role of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, performing two of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's most-loved songs, "Under the Sea," which won an Oscar for Best Original Song, and "Kiss the Girl." He went on to voice the role in Sebastian's Caribbean Jamboree, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, the Little Mermaid animated series, Raw Toonage, Marsupilami, and Disney's House of Mouse.

Wright is survived by his wife of 49 years, Amanda, and their children, Keely, Dee, and Sam. The Wrights co-founded the Hudson Valley Conservatory in their hometown of Walden, New York, and the group is currently creating a scholarship in his honor, to support its community of young artists. Click here for more information.

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