NEW YORK -- Jason Raize, who played the older Simba in the original Broadway company of "The Lion King," has died at 28.
Mr. Raize died Feb. 3 in Yass, Australia, southwest of Sydney, according to Chris Boneau, a spokesman for the Disney musical.
Mr. Raize was chosen for the role of Simba, who changes from a callow young lion to the aware adult, after a series of grueling auditions for "Lion King" director Julie Taymor and choreographer Garth Fagan.
The musical, based on Disney's successful animated film, opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997 and is still running in New York and around the world.
Mr. Raize played the part for nearly three years.
The competition for the role of Simba was fierce because the musical required "triple-threat work -- singing, dancing, and acting -- that you don't get to such an extent in other shows," Mr. Raize said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. "It was more the sense of who can take the challenge and not be daunted by the task."
Asked to compare the stage and film versions, Mr. Raize said he took a look at the film "to see the gaps that Julie has filled in."
"She has done a terrific job of creating a richer, even more rewarding work," he said.
In 2003, Mr. Raize was the voice of an Ice Age boy in the Disney animated movie "Brother Bear."
Mr. Raize, from Oneonta, N.Y., worked there while in high school at the Orpheus Theater, a semiprofessional troupe.
Mr. Raize performed in a variety of shows including a "Jesus Christ Superstar" tour with Ted Neeley and later a "King and I" tour starring Hayley Mills.
Mr. Raize leaves his father and stepmother, Robert and Monet Rothenberg, of Oneonta, N.Y.; and his mother, Sarah MacArthur of Wrentham, Mass.; and a sister, Lisa Williams of Poughquag, N.Y.