Jun 19, 2013 - Lion King Cast Presents “From the Hart” at Jazz Hall

Jazz Depot Event to Benefit Day Center for the Homeless


            It’s members of the touring cast of Disney’s The Lion King as you’ve never seen them before. 

            In fact, they’re doing a show that nobody’s seen before – and they’re staging its world premiere it Monday evening, June 24, at Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St., with proceeds benefiting the Day Center for the Homeless. 

            The concert is called From the Hart. It features a number of Lion King cast members doing jazz and standards by such Great American Songbook composers as Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, George & Ira Gershwin, and Cole Porter.

            “This is the debut, the first time we’ve done it,” says John Sloan, a member of the ensemble and understudy for the role of Banzi. ”In the past, we’ve done a concert series called City of Hope, and those tend to be more musical-theater, revue-styled shows. We’ve done staged readings. But we also try to vary things. We just did an event called In Concert, a jazz night, in Detroit, which was kind of similar to this one.

            “I actually did not know about the rich tradition of jazz in Oklahoma’s past until I started to do some research, and then this started to all fall in line,” he adds. “And with the Jazz Hall of Fame just around the corner [from the Performing Arts Center, where Disney’s The Lion King is having its run], things seemed to come together very well and make sense.” We have great local Tulsa musicians like Donald Ryan, Rebecca Ungerman, Ryan Tedder, Branjae,Jordan Hehl, Nick Foster, David Moore  performing with us.  Their talent is unbelievable and the fact that they would give of themselves to this cause is so special."

            Sloan has been touring with Disney’s The Lion King for the past six years, and during that whole time, he says, “We’ve been doing benefits on and off for lots of different charities.” About two and a half years ago, however, he founded an organization called the Helping Hands Campaign, and that’s been the vehicle for producing the benefit shows ever since.

            “I thought there was an opportunity for us to do more events like this, on a more regular basis, in a more efficient manner,” he explains, “and to utilize our resources and our unique abilities to work with a community while we’re in that community, to support and touch that community in a way that goes beyond, you know, the initial performance.”

            Of course, the cast members all make their living with those other performances. Their full-time job is, after all,  being on the road doing Disney’s The Lion King. So where in the world do those Helping Hands volunteers find the hours to rehearse a completely different show?

            “I’ll be honest with you,” says Sloan with a laugh. “It’s not easy. But anything worth doing is going to take some effort, and it just requires a little bit of planning and organization and people getting together.

            “All the people who travel with the show are talented musicians, and a lot of them know some of these songs,” he adds. “So, for a show like From the Hart, it’s easy to find singers in the show who have done this rep before, and that cuts down on rehearsal time. Always, when we’re constructing a new piece, what we tend to go toward is, `How we can we make this both a positive and fantastic show that’s going to raise a lot of money, but also an efficient use of everybody’s efforts and resources?’”

            In their quest to, as Sloan puts it, “raise as much money as we possibly can,” the From the Hart performers will also be giving audience members a chance to take home unique autographed Lion King merchandise and memorabilia, as well as other items, via a silent auction held the night of the show.

            “We have two tickets to The Lion King, we have gift certificates to restaurants, we have memorabilia like signed posters from the cast – things you just can’t get anywhere else. You can’t go on eBay and buy them. You can’t go on Amazon. They’re one-of-a-kind items.

            “I’m a firm believer in using the gifts I’ve been given to help, And as long as somebody is going to find some joy in our autographed memorabilia or other things attached to the show, we might as well use that to raise some more money. I had the opportunity to come out here [to Tulsa] a few weeks ago, before Lion King was here, and meet with the Day Center for the Homeless and tour their facilities. They’re a wonderful organization. The work they do is really, really fantastic. So any opportunity we have to support them, we take it – and we take it seriously.”                

  “The work done by the “Helping Hands Campaign” provides a great example of how so many artist and musicians use their talents and abilities to make our community a better place,” says Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh. “John Sloan and his colleagues understand the importance of giving back. As they lead by example, we come together to support the great work being done for our community at the Day Center for the Homeless.”

            From the Hart is set to begin at 8p.m. Monday June 24, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot.  Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. General admission is $30, front-row general admission $60, and table seating $100. Each front-row and table seating ticket includes admission to a pre-show cocktail reception at 7p.m. with food donated by Mi Cocina . Ticket proceeds will go to the Day Center for the Homeless.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.