UMass Amherst Student Wins Outer Critics Circle Award for Performance in The Lion King

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts student Tsidii (pronounced "C-D") Le Loka, has received an Outer Critics Circle Award for "Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical." Le Loka is currently appearing as Rafiki in the Broadway production of "The Lion King."

The Outer Critics Circle is an organization of writers on the New York theater for out-of-town newspapers, national publications, and other media beyond Broadway.

According to Jackie Greene, spokesperson for "The Lion King," the Outer Critics Circle Award is to the Tony Awards, what the Golden Globe is to the Oscars. This season is the 48th anniversary of the Outer Critics Circle.

The annual awards ceremony will be held on May 29 at Sardi’s in New York City. On the same night that Le Loka won the Outer Critics Circle Award, she also took part in an all-star benefit for the rain forests at Carnegie Hall. Among her fellow performers at the event were Sting, Elton John, James Taylor, and Madonna.

Le Loka was also recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award. According to Greene, it is also highly likely she will be nominated for a Tony Award when nominations are announced this coming Monday.

While at UMass (which Le Loka says she chose because of its outstanding Afro-American music program), Le Loka studied and also recorded with jazz luminary Yusef Lateef, a faculty member in music at UMass. She also performed with jazz legend Max Roach, formerly on the UMass faculty. In addition, Le Loka performed for Desmond Tutu during a visit he made to UMass in 1992.

She also has toured with Harry Belafonte as a featured performer, an experience which earned her "co-op" credits toward her degree at UMass. Le Loka’s television credits include "Tsidii Le Loka in Concert" (South Africa) and "Caught in the Act" (USA/1995 Iris Award), and she has been featured on numerous recordings as well as commercial endorsements. A native of South Africa, Le Loka came to UMass in 1991 to pursue a dual degree in economics and music.